Largest artificial reef here being launched off Southern Islands

Coral and marine life will have new homes in undersea housing to be created in the waters off the Southern Islands, in an ambitious effort to create the nation's largest artificial reef.

The project by the National Parks Board (NParks) and JTC Corporation involves placing 10m-high structures under water at the Sisters' Islands Marine Park by the end of the year. They will be made from concrete and rocks recycled from JTC's other projects.

JTC's deputy director for Engineering and Operations John Kiong said: "It's akin to a three-storey terrace house lowered into the sea."

The idea is to transform bare seabed into a thriving marine ecosystem by giving corals a place to take root, and in turn attract fish and other sea life.

Singapore is home to more than 250 species of hard corals, about one-third of what are found in the world.

The NParks Director for Coastal and Marine at the National Biodiversity Centre, Dr Karenne Tun, said the location of the artificial reef is ideal for a "source reef" due to the geography and current flow. "When mature, its coral larvae will reach other areas and feed the other reefs in Singapore."

To avoid environmental impact, the edifices will have anchor pins to hold them in place without piling. They also require no maintenance.

While previous research projects used artificial structures to renew parts of existing reefs, this is the first time an entire reef is to be created. It will have a total surface area of 500 sq m, and pave the way for future projects.

Coral reef scientist Chou Loke Ming, who is the project consultant, said he expects to see "coral recruits" - tiny coral colonies - forming just six months after the structures are installed. This could be even faster if coral fragments are transplanted from other reefs.

Stressing the importance of sustaining marine biodiversity in the face of rapid urbanisation and climate change, Prof Chou said 60 per cent of Singapore's natural reef area has been lost to development.

The announcement coincides with the start of the NParks Biodiversity week. Members of the public are invited to the Festival Of Biodiversity on June 2 and 3, at the open space between Tampines MRT and Tampines mall. A prototype of the artificial reef will be on display.