Overcoming Land Constraint in Singapore

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Land constraints in Singapore and how Singapore overcomes this problem.

Land constraint in Singapore has always been problematic mainly due to the country’s small land area and high population and density. As it only has 687 square kilometers of land area, it constantly faces the challenge of planning their land use to overcome their land constraints for the huge growing population of about 4.9 million people. Hence, urban planning is especially important in this case. In addition, Singapore has to create an attractive, livable and sustainable living space for its residents. So, how does it solve this problem of land constraint?

Firstly, Singapore has tried to maximize its land use. It has to come up with methods to use their land efficiently so that no space is being wasted. An example is by building upwards. When building high-rise buildings like hotels or HDB flats, a huge number of people can be accommodated in these buildings because the space in the sky is almost unlimited.

This is definitely a good method to save much space in the country, as a small land area can already solve part of the problem. This is why bungalows and terraces are much more expensive than high-rise flats as they use up more space and can accommodate less people.

Other than building upwards, of course we can also build downwards, but it is more complex since it requires us to dig out earth soil to make space. By building underground facilities, no space is occupied on ground level. This is an ideal way to save land for other important purposes especially when we have such a small land area. For instance, many tunnels, passageways and train stations like the circle line are built underground in order to save space. Even some shopping malls, such as the CityLink Mall is built downwards.

Secondly, another way to overcome land constraints in Singapore is by land reclamation, where we can increase land area. This is exceptionally important for a highly populated country and has helped us to increase the amount of land for use. Singapore has reclaimed about 70 square kilometers of land from 1960 to present day. Reclaimed land is to be used for building more homes in private and public housing estates and recreational facilities for the growing population and expanding commercial and industrial activities and transport needs, including roads, expressways, the Mass Rapid Transit System, the port and airport facilities.

The main way to reclaim land in Singapore is the landfill method. We use this method to reclaim land from the coasts, swamps and offshore islands. It is also used in reclamation works involving the merging of islands. The fill materials evacuated from the hills in Bedok, Siglap, Tampines and Jurong were used for filling the reclamation areas, which is why Singapore is virtually flat now. In recent years, sea sand obtained from the seabed is the main source of fill materials for reclamation. The reclamation contractors import the sea sand from the neighboring countries such as Indonesia.

However, there are limitations to reclaiming land. Firstly, land reclamation works in the past used to be carried out from depths of 5 to 10m. Today, reclamation works have to venture into deeper waters of more than 15m and this will incur much higher costs, as the current technology only allows us to reclaim land from waters up to 15 meters in depth.


It is also not so viable to pursue pushing reclamation further offshore because there is the competing need to maintain the sea lanes and provide new and larger ports for the bigger ships to anchor in Singapore's limited sea space. In addition, there is not enough sand in Singapore and the cost of bringing sand to Singapore increases. We also need to maintain good relationships with neighboring countries without infringing on their territories. From these factors, we can interpret that land reclamation cannot forever be used and a new method has to be come up with.

Secondly, as the urban population keeps increasing, eventually there might not be enough space to accommodate such a large number of people in the country. More housing blocks have to be built in the future and we definitely have to make more space, which we might not be able to do so. Huge buildings cannot be built and the available land area will get smaller with time. It will be the time when the country’s population will burst and no more land can be reclaimed or used.

In conclusion, Singapore is indeed successful in overcoming its land constraints. By maximizing land use, a lot of space is saved by building upwards and downwards, as they do not occupy much land area on ground. This is a suitable method to solve the problem in the long run although the amount of land in Singapore might run out one day.

Land reclamation is also an efficient way to overcome land constraints – it is predicted that Singapore's land area will increase by about another 100 square kilometers by the year 2030. Despite its limitations that costs of reclaiming land will continue to increase, it is still a possible way to overcome this problem. Therefore, Singapore can be said to be successful in solving the problematic land constraint.


Roberta Baxter
Posted on Jul 5, 2011
Posted on Jul 1, 2011