Who are the indigenous people of Singapore

With areas from poorer countries: This is how Singapore is growing

However, as more and more countries are banning sand exports to Singapore, cracking down on smugglers and driving up prices, the country must now change its strategy - it is using ash as a building material. In addition, the government wants to build dykes in the next few years, similar to the one in the Netherlands, in order to gain new land.

There is one street that illustrates Singapore’s expansion into the sea like no other place in the city: Beach Road. If you walk westwards along it today, past historical buildings such as the Raffles Hotel, you can hardly imagine that they once stood on the beach and that hotel guests had a view of the sea. Today the road is miles from the shore. Entire city districts and parks have now emerged where once only the tropical sea sloshed. The area of ​​Singapore grew by about 150 square kilometers. That corresponds roughly to the size of a city like Augsburg.

This unprecedented land reclamation has made Singapore the largest sand importer in the world over the past few decades. The material came mainly from Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia. According to the UN, at least 24 Indonesian islands fell victim to the expansion of Singapore, and they were simply demolished. On the Cambodian coast, the extraction of sand threatens the livelihoods of fishermen. In Vietnam, parts of the bank repeatedly break into the Mekong River because too much sand is being dredged from its course.

In Singapore, for example, the sand ended up where today's Changi Airport is located. Since 1975, the government has had massive land dumped around an old military airport in the east of the city-state and built one of the largest and most important air traffic hubs in the world. Up until around 2005, land was reclaimed here, satellite images show.

Between 1995 and 2000, the large island of Jurong emerged from a dozen of Singapore's smaller islands. At 30 square kilometers, it has now grown to three times its size. Today, petrochemical companies in particular operate their plants on it, including German corporations such as Lanxess, BASF and Evonik. The US oil company ExxonMobile has built a huge refinery here. This petrochemical cluster makes Singapore one of the most important oil processors in the world today.

However, in 1997 Malaysia banned all sand exports to Singapore during the works. Indonesia followed in 2008, Vietnam in 2009. That changed little, at least initially. Anything that did not reach Singapore officially was smuggled. In Malaysia in particular, there have been frequent bribery scandals in this context.

In recent years, however, driven by an unprecedented construction boom in other parts of the world, the price of sand has risen so massively that Singapore is now desperately looking for alternatives. Similar to Jurong, a large one is to be created around the island of Semakau from many small islets. Work began here in 1999 and is expected to be completed in 2045.

In contrast to the previous land reclamation projects, however, this island is largely made up of ashes that are produced in the city-state's waste incineration plants. The North Rhine-Westphalian Rethmann Group with its Düsseldorf subsidiary Remax Mineralien is also involved in the project. This cleans the ash from metal residues, among other things, before it is poured into the sea.

Tekong Island is very close by. Several thousand Chinese, Malaysians and indigenous people once lived here. Today the island in the far east is a huge training facility for the military. And recent satellite imagery shows that the government has been working to double the island's area for about 20 years. According to the latest pictures, almost half of the work is done. And the future outlines of the island show that Singapore uses every centimeter, because the coastline will run exactly on the border with Malaysia.

On the other hand, there is still potential south of Tekong. Singapore's government announced last year that it intends to drain land here in the future by building dykes - similar to the one in the Netherlands. In addition, new fresh water reservoirs are to be created here with the help of dams.

The "Economy from Above" section is created in cooperation with LiveEO - a participation of DvH Ventures. The Handelsblatt Media Group is part of DvH Medien, which also includes DvH Ventures.