The Southern Islands is a planning area consisting of a collection of islets located within the Central Region of Singapore. The islands that form the planning area are Kusu Island, Lazarus Island, Pulau Seringat, Pulau Tekukor, Saint John's Island, Sentosa and the two Sisters' Islands. The islands encompass a total land area of about 5.58 square kilometres (2.15 sq mi). The Sentosa Development Corporation oversees the development and maintenance of these offshore islands south of Singapore.
As part of the Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) plan to develop the other Southern Islands after Sentosa, land reclamation was started in 2000 to link Pulau Seringat and Lazarus Island. The reclamation created a sand bank between the two islands, forming a lagoon that has an unobstructed seaview.
Pulau Seringat, which is now part of the extended Lazarus Island, now has an 800-metre stretch of beach. Thousands of cubic metres of sand, checked for sandfly eggs, was imported from Indonesia to make the beach. 1,000 mature coconut trees were also planted to add to the island feel of the place.
A causeway connecting Lazarus Island and Saint John's Island was also built to make the three islands more accessible and help attract more visitors.
The reclamation took six years to complete and cost S$60 million. Another S$120 million was spent to bring water, electricity, gas and telecommunication infrastructure from Sentosa to the islands. The submarine services link consists of a 1.2-kilometre trench holding utility lines that lie 17 metres underwater. It links Sentosa Cove to Kias Island, and is protected underneath 50,000 tonnes of rock. It holds two 12-inch (30 cm) gas pipelines, two 12-inch (30 cm) water pipelines, four 22 kV power cables and four 96 core fibre optic cables for telecommunications.
In November 2006, the Singapore Tourism Board announced plans to develop the six islands off the southern tip of Sentosa into a tourist attraction. These islands include the Sisters' Island, Kusu Island, Lazarus Island and Saint John's Island, which draw at least 100,000 visitors a year. These are mainly pilgrims, campers, day-trippers and canoeists.
This, as STB's S$12 billion Sentosa master plan — which includes HarbourFront and the Southern Islands — is expected to be completed ahead of schedule in 2010. The STB intends to tap on the momentum of the Sentosa Integrated resort bid and extend investor interest to the islands nearby.
Over the years, there have been several suggestions on how to develop the islands, from turning them into a centre for water sports, to developing eco-tourism and promoting fishing. Even a retirement village was promoted. However, these plans did not materialise.
Exploring the potential of developing land around the Marina Bay and Sentosa areas, the STB has concluded that enhancing the lush greenery and natural foliage of the Southern Islands will make them irresistible as a tourist destination. The Southern Islands currently has a Chinese temple, natural ecosystems and a resort-like atmosphere. Therefore, it is conceivable to turn some of them into a resort island, a cultural site or an interactive rainforest park.
There is also some potential for the Southern Islands to become a themed destination, mixing education and entertainment, that leverages on its natural resources. It has been said that the potential is similar to Italy's Isle of Capri, a marine village, or Dubai's The Palm islands, a development for the ultra-wealthy. However, it may be difficult to develop the islands as a mass tourist destination because they lack a land link to the main island. Instead, a plan is being considered to turn them into a getaway for the well-heeled who can afford the luxury and those who want to explore the rustic surroundings for the islands' flora and fauna, including 300 species of native wildlife.
With the completion of land reclamation works to link Pulau Seringat, Lazarus Island and Saint John's Island, the STB is setting its sights to develop the cluster by 2015, the year they plan to hit its target of 17 million annual visitors and S$30 billion in tourism receipts. The STB expects to announce details for the development of the Southern Islands and seek requests for concepts as early as March 2007.
However, in April 2007, STB announced that the plans for the Southern Islands have been put on hold. Industry sources said that the Government is considering housing a casino on the six-island cluster. STB met potential investors in January 2006 to gauge their interests and listen to ideas, but the results were apparently not very encouraging. To date, no decision has been made yet on the development concept, including whether a request for concepts exercise will be launched. It is the second time in three years that the authorities are rethinking plans for the Southern Islands.
Notes and references
- Teh Jen Lee, "Believe it or not...This is Singapore. The newly developed St John's and Lazarus islands have beautiful beaches and sparkling waters", The New Paper, 1 December 2006
- Serene Goh, "Targeting nature lovers and the well-heeled", The Straits Times, 1 December 2006
- Serene Goh, "All powered up and ready for offers", The Straits Times, 1 December 2006
- Jeana Wong, Channel NewsAsia: STB plans to develop Southern Islands into tourist attraction. Retrieved 30 November 2006.
- Krist Boo, "Southern Islands may be next big tourist attraction", The Straits Times, 29 November 2006
- Krist Boo, "Tourism for Southern Islands put on hold", The Straits Times, 12 April 2007