AN ENGINEERING MARVEL AND HAVEN FOR BIODIVERSITY
Endangered birds such as the great-billed
heron and Malaysian plover call Pulau
Semakau’s mudflats home, wading through
the water in search of their next catch.
When the tides recede, you may encounter
the giant carpet anemone, sea urchins, sickle
seagrass, nudibranchs and the impressive
knobbly sea star. Pulau Semakau’s waters are
also home to a fish farm.
Looking at the landscape, it may be hard to
believe that this is a landfill. Some have even
called it the “Garbage of Eden”. The 350 ha
landfill is able to contain 28 million m3 of
waste. Semakau Landfill was the brainchild of
engineers at then-ENV, who proposed turning
the sea space between Pulau Sakeng and
Pulau Semakau into a landfill.
It was an ideal solution, as space was running
out at the last inland dumping ground at
Lorong Halus in the 1990s. Competition for
land was also getting increasingly intense
with rapid urbanisation.
Japan’s near-shore landfills were studied,
along with the United States’ barging systems
for offshore facilities.
In 1994, Parliament gave its stamp of
approval and construction began in 1995.
It was constructed in two phases, costing
$610 million for phase 1 and $36 million for
Various measures were taken to minimise
the impact on the environment due to
construction. This included planting 400,000
mangrove saplings to replace those affected
by construction works and the installation
of fine mesh silt screens near work areas to
reduce the impact of sediment on the corals.
Today, Pulau Semakau is open to the public
for intertidal walks to allow everyone to enjoy
the island’s biodiversity.
Photo credit: National Environment Agency