Re­claimed city off Sin­ga­pore trig­gers ecol­ogy fears

The Myanmar Times - - Business -

A PLANNED multi-bil­lion-dol­lar new city near Sin­ga­pore is at­tract­ing in­ter­est from in­vestors with prom­ises of lux­ury liv­ing but there are ques­tions over its fu­ture ow­ing to China’s eco­nomic woes and warn­ings of en­vi­ron­men­tal catastrophe.

For­est City, a US$42 bil­lion fu­tur­is­tic “eco-city” of high-rises and wa­ter­front vil­las, will sit on four man­made is­lands on the Malaysian side of the Jo­hor Strait just an hour from Sin­ga­pore.

Of­fer­ing 700,000 res­i­den­tial units as well as shop­ping malls, in­ter­na­tional schools, ho­tels, con­ven­tion venues and med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties on 1370 hectares, the city will even have its own im­mi­gra­tion cen­tre.

The ven­ture is be­ing devel­oped by Hong Kong-listed real es­tate gi­ant Coun­try Gar­den and a firm partly owned by Jo­hor’s pow­er­ful Sul­tan Ibrahim Iskan­dar with an eye on cashed-up Chi­nese buy­ers.

Of­fi­cials say they have shifted 500 units in pre-sell­ing al­ready, de­spite the devel­op­ment not due to be com­pleted un­til 2035.

Dur­ing a visit by AFP, sales ex­ec­u­tive Alex Lee said he had sold 10 prop­er­ties in one sit­ting with a Chi­nese busi­ness­man, who paid cash.

In­vestors can pay any­thing from $200,000 for a two-bed­room unit, up to $1.6 mil­lion for a sea­side villa.

By com­par­i­son, a mass mar­ket con­do­minium in Sin­ga­pore costs around $740,000 – which in For­est City would buy a four-room sea­side villa with a func­tion hall, two park­ing lots and a large gar­den.

But some an­a­lysts ques­tion the project’s long-term sales tar­gets as China’s econ­omy strug­gles to break out of a growth slow­down that has seen ex­pan­sion fall to 25-year lows, while au­thor­i­ties clamp down on a flight of cash from the coun­try.

At the same time Stan­dard & Poor’s said it was “cau­tious” about For­est City af­ter it down­graded Coun­try Gar­den’s long-term cor­po­rate rat­ing in March to “BB” from “BB+”, cit­ing risks from its ag­gres­sive land ac­qui­si­tions.

It called sales tar­gets “some­what am­bi­tious given this is a new largescale project and tar­gets pri­mar­ily main­land [Chi­nese] over­seas buy­ers”.

And even if the project is a suc­cess, cam­paign­ers say it could prove to be a dis­as­ter for the local ecol­ogy and fish­er­men who com­plain of dwin­dling catches.

While its web­site de­scribes it as a “live­able eco-city”, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say the dump­ing of sand to build the new city – an es­ti­mated 162 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres – could al­ter tides and de­stroy ma­rine life.

“It has the po­ten­tial to change the ecol­ogy of the whole area in pro­found ways,” Green­peace sci­en­tist Paul John­ston told AFP.

The recla­ma­tion has also ruf­fled feath­ers in Sin­ga­pore, with the citys­tate’s en­vi­ron­ment min­istry say­ing it is study­ing an impact as­sess­ment re­port pro­vided by Malaysia and is seek­ing fur­ther clarifications.

Coun­try Gar­den Paci­ficview ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Mo­hamad Oth­man Yu­sof said de­vel­op­ers were strictly fol­low­ing guide­lines laid down by the Malaysian gov­ern­ment to min­imise the en­vi­ron­men­tal impact.

He said at least 20 sim­u­la­tion stud­ies were car­ried out be­fore the recla­ma­tion was ap­proved.

The project’s orig­i­nal size of 5000 acres was cut by 30 per­cent and “dou­ble silt cur­tains” in­stalled to pre­vent silt and sed­i­ment from spread­ing and pol­lut­ing the water­way, he added.

Photo: AFP

A scale model shows the planned For­est City on an is­land on the Malaysian side of the Straits of Jo­hor.

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