Singapore’s new Coastal Protection and Flood Resilience Institute (CFI Singapore) aims to bring in expertise and innovation to head off what government officials describe as the “existential threat” posed by rising sea levels, now increasing at a rate of around 3-4 millimetres a year.
Average sea levels are forecast to rise by 1 metre (3.3 feet) by the end of the century, but experts say the effects could be exacerbated by changing rainfall patterns, higher tides and more intense storm surges.
“If we don’t do this well, our lives are at stake,” Grace Fu, Singapore’s environment minister, said during an opening ceremony.
Nearly a third of the Southeast Asian island nation’s territory is only 5 metres or less above sea level, and with average annual rainfall at around 2,500 millimetres, it is already vulnerable to flooding.
Singapore has invested heavily to improve drainage and has built flood prevention infrastructure, including sea walls, tidal gates, and revetments to protect against erosion. It also launched a S$5 billion (US$3.66 billion) coastal and flood protection fund in 2020.
CFI Singapore, a joint initiative by PUB, Singapore’s water agency, and the National University of Singapore, has already launched research projects looking at new engineering possibilities like flexible sea walls as well as nature-based solutions using mangroves or seagrass to protect coastlines.
Experts said the bottom line for Singapore is to ensure that none of the country’s land would be lost to rising sea levels. Future land reclamation projects would also be designed to protect against sea encroachment.
Fu said better protection against rising sea levels could also help “land-scarce” Singapore reclaim more territory.