The Secret Underground World Of Singapore

You’ll never guess what’s beneath the ground you’re standing on.

Our government bigwigs have always been tirelessly coming up with strategies to make the best use of our most limited resource: land. As a small island city-state with a scarce land, Singapore struggles to accommodate both urban and suburban areas. To put this into perspective, Russia is approximately 24,531 times larger than Singapore!

As you may know, over the years, our government has pumped a lot of money into importing sand from countries like Cambodia – whether by ethical means or not. In fact, the miracle of land reclamation has allowed Singapore to expand its land area by almost 25% over the last two centuries.

Surely, the pace of which land reclamation occurs coupled with the strategic allocation of land aren’t enough to compete with Singapore’s growing population and limited land? Singapore is anticipating 6.9 million residences by 2030 for crying out loud!

How, then, is it possible that supercool facilities, buildings and attractions continue to pop up all over our Little Red Dot?

Going Deep Down

In the last few years, Singapore has been focusing on freeing the land above for developments by going underground. That’s right, folks. There’s more than just dirt and ant colonies lying beneath us.


The First Level: 1-3 Meters 

Pedestrian links

If you peel back the first layer of Singapore soil, you can find underground pedestrian links connecting us from one point to another.

Singapore hopes to further expand these links in the future for the convenience of its residences. This is great news for those who wish to avoid walking in the heat and icky humidity outdoors.

The Second Level: 5-50 Meters 

The Common Service Tunnel

The Common Service Tunnel is a relatively new development at the Marina Bay Area. The second of its kind in Asia after Japan, this 3 km (9800 ft) utility tunnel houses our telecom cables, power lines and water pipes. This tunnel will ensure minimal traffic disruption during maintenance, more reliable service, a better urban environment and more importantly, more land for development.

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The most impressive feature of this tunnel is its District Cooling Plant, which supplies chilled water to the air conditioning units of buildings in the area through pipes within the tunnel.  The District Cooling Plant is located within the One Raffles Quay development.

MRT and Vehicle Tunnels

Go a little further down and you will uncover vehicle tunnels and our world-class MRT system. With plans to construct more vehicle tunnels and invest in a more expansive MRT train network, Singaporeans can reap the benefits of increased convenience, and lower environmental and noise pollution.

Let’s hope that this also means we will witness less MRT breakdowns and delays caused by signalling faults.

Third Level: 100 Meters and further

The Underground Ammunition Facility

Believed to be the world’s first large-scale underground ammunition depot within a densely developed urban area, the Singapore Underground Ammunition stores our explosives and ammunitions.

This awesome Avengers-like underground lair took 10 years to complete and was built under the old Mandai Quarry. To add to the air of mystery shrouding this storage facility hidden in the sunless depths of the earth, its actual depth has never been disclosed.

The storage facility requires 90% less land to be sterilised than an above-the-ground ammunition depot would have needed. Furthermore, by building this facility underground, another 300 hectares of land was saved. This land area is equivalent to 400 football fields or half the size of Pasir Ris New Town!

The Jurong Rock Caverns

About 150 meters down from where you are standing (or sitting), taller than a 30-storey HDB block, lies one of the most capital-intensive projects Singapore has ever seen: The Jurong Rock Caverns. Together, the five caves create 61 hectares of space below the Banyan Basin on Jurong Island with 9km of access tunnels built around them.

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The Jurong Rock Caverns is the first underground oil storage facility in South-east Asia. This magnificent project took eight years to complete and successfully freed up 60 hectares, equivalent to 84 football fields, of usable land. The caverns are as tall as 9-storey buildings, each standing at an impressive height of 27m, 20m wide and 340m long. Each cavern can store up to 64 Olympic-sized pools or 1,300 double decker buses.

This SGD 1.7 billion project is only the first phase of the project. The second phase is expected to double its current capacity. A total of nine storage galleries will provide a whopping 1.47 million cu m of storage, or 580 Olympic-sized pools worth of space.

This is not the end

Singapore isn’t stopping here.

The creative minds in our local government have recently launched an R&D programme called The Land and Liveability National Innovation Challenge. The challenged statement is to “create new space cost-effectively and optimise the use of space to sustain Singapore’s long-term growth and resilience”. One of its many focuses is to create underground space for better urban living.

Sit tight and fasten your seatbelts, my friends, as we’re clearly in for a very exciting ride. At this rate, we can possibly expect to find underground sports stadiums and even libraries in the future.


This feature originally appeared in YP SG.

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