Displeasure at Singapore’s land reclamation from Malaysia

Displeasure at Singapore’s land reclamation from Malaysia

Land reclamation is also an important activity in several other small countries such as the Netherlands, Dubai, Belgium and other Gulf states. It has also become an industry and a fine art. The best practices which Singapore adopts, enables it to embark to some quite massive land reclamation projects, in Pulau Tekong and in Tuas, without causing significant impacts on the marine environment, for example,, pollution.

In 2002, Malaysia began to voice its displeasure at Singapore’s land reclamation works in Tuas and Pulau Tekong. More specifically, Malaysia did not protest against the reclamation in Tuas until January 2002, and then only in respect of the alleged encroachment into its territorial waters. At that point in time, the Tuas reclamation project had already been in progress for more that one and a half years. It was only in April 2002 that Malaysia raised the issue of any geophysical and hydrographical impacts arising from the Tuas reclamation project. On 30 April 2002, Malaysia raised objections for the first time concerning the alleged environmental impact and narrowing of the waterway in Kular Johor as a result of the Pulau Tekong reclamation works.As seen from the map below,  Pulau Tekong is situated in the north eastern part of Singapore. Tuas is in the Western part of Singapore.

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Map of the main island Singapore, showing the Tuas view Extension and Pulau Tekong reclamation areas.

Malaysia alleged that Singapore’s land reclamation works in Pulau Tekong and Tuas impinged on Malaysian territory, caused pollution and other harm to the marine environment in the Straits of Johor, damaged the jetties and reduced the catch of the fishermen who made their living in the Straits of Johor. Singapore repeatedly asked for details of Malaysia’s concerns so that proper investigations could be made. However, although Malaysia promised to do so each time, at both levels of the Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers, no such information was provided.

Finally more than a year later Malaysia provided Singapore with details of the technical studies on 4 July 2003. However, at the same time, Malaysia invoked Article 286 of the 1982 UN convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and initiated arbitration under Annex VII of the UNCLOS.

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  1. Article published in Volume X, 2006 Singapore Year Book of International Law and Contributors (SYBIL) – (2006) 10 SYBIL 1-7. http://www.itlos.org/start2_en.html
  2. Map : https://i0.wp.com/farm6.static.flickr.com/5091/5483944371_a26d2582ea_z.jpg?zoom=2

1 Comment on “Displeasure at Singapore’s land reclamation from Malaysia

  1. It is extremely interesting to read about territorial water politics especially with relevance to land reclamation. The phenomenon of reclamation is often presumptuous of the fact that the water bodies are endless and therefore, it is the second option to verticality of the city. However, as it is evident from your narrative, reclamation does not only have geographical and environmental consequences on the city but can also cause political clashes between cities. This would inevitably result in changes in the urban development plans of both the cities. Could this mean that sovereign states, introduced in Europe to originally to administer and plan cities become a hindrance to the cumulative development of the regions? Do the political borders in themselves become A Tragedy of the Commons?

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