#OnThisDay (1 Apr 1999) Pulau Semakau Landfill
#OnThisDay (1 Apr) in 1999, Singapore opened its first and only offshore landfill, Semakau, 8km to the south of Singapore.
In the 1990s, Singapore faced several problems: huge amounts of waste, nearly-full landfills, and a lack of space on the mainland. We had to find an alternative – and quickly.
So in 1994, the government approved the construction of an offshore landfill by enclosing and filling the waters between Pulau Semakau and Pulau Sakeng. However, the landfill had to be designed to protect the natural environment as well.
Thus began some innovative engineering: the area was lined with impermeable membrane, marine clay, and rock layers, to keep pollutants in and surrounding waters clean. Mangroves from the eastern side of Semakau were also replanted so that they could thrive, and protect the shores from coastal erosion. We also installed fine mesh slit screens along the perimeter of the landfill to avoid sediment spilling over onto coral reefs and seagrass bed.
Today, it’s also home to a thriving ecosystem of shorebirds, sea stars, sea anemones and rare shellfish that thrive in mangroves and seagrass beds. The air is fresh and the surrounding waters harbour dolphins, turtles and countless fish. NParks has also reintroduced fireflies to Semakau’s wetlands.
More than 2,400 tonnes of incineration ash and non-incinerable waste are transported to Semakau every night. Semakau was designed to hold our waste until 2035. But with each of us doing our part to recycle and reduce waste, it might just last us far longer than that.