By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Last month, the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources in Singapore, Masagos Zulkifli, announced nature-based solutions as part of the country’s efforts to fight sea level rise. These include planting more trees and, most importantly, actively restoring mangrove forests.
Speaking at the first Singapore meeting of scientists from the United Nations’ climate science body, Masagos Zulkifli said, “We take both hard and soft engineering approaches to mitigate coastal erosion, and [will] actively restore our mangrove areas.”
As reported in the Straights Times, he stated that nature-based solutions will also go beyond coastal protection. He cited the over two million trees in Singapore, as well as its more than 350 parks and four nature reserves.
Zulkifli explained, “Under the Forest Restoration Action Plan, an additional 250,000 native trees and shrubs will be planted. The benefits are multi-fold: This will support our biodiversity and, importantly, further drive climate mitigation and strengthen our resilience.”
Mangroves provide multiple benefits to both humans and wildlife. One significant benefit is that they act as a natural barrier against rising sea levels. Mangroves help to achieve this by first creating a network of water channels.
These channels become shallower over time through three factors: Organic matter from the tree, reduced sediment re-suspensions and sediment trapping. Ultimately, the sea beds will rise and will be higher than the rise in sea levels.
Associate Professor Daniel Friess, a mangrove expert with the National University of Singapore’s geography department, said mangroves have the potential to keep pace with some rates of sea-level rise – making them a natural and adaptable coastal defense that can help prevent rising seas from inundating coastlines.
Prof Friess told the Straights Times that while there are a number of areas where mangroves have been lost, there is a chance of bringing them back to areas such as Pulau Ubin, an island off Singapore’s north-eastern coast.
He added: “We can also think about new areas where we can grow mangroves in novel ways, for example, by designing future developments and reclamations that allow mangrove growth.”
In August, Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said protecting the country against rising sea levels could cost S$100 billion (US$72 billion) or more over 100 years, as the low-lying island-state makes preparations to mitigate the impact of global warming.
“How much will it cost to protect ourselves against rising sea levels? My guess is probably S$100 billion over 100 years, quite possibly more,” the Prime Minister said.
Singapore’s has already taken some action, earlier this year, the government said it would spend $300 million over the next two years to upgrade and maintain the country’s drains and strengthen its flood resilience.
Singapore is also introducing a carbon tax and requiring future critical infrastructure, like its new airport terminal and port, to be built on higher ground.