The National Environment Agency (NEA) has been recognised for its outstanding engineering feat in the development of Semakau Landfill. The 2019 Hassib J. Sabbagh Award for Engineering Construction Excellence, by the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) was presented to NEA at an award ceremony held this evening (23 Nov) in Melbourne, Australia. This prestigious international award affirms the role of engineering in sustainable development.

This year, the theme for the award is ‘Sustainable Development for Smart Cities’ in which Semakau Landfill showcased how sustainable waste management can co-exist with flora and fauna. The development of Semakau Landfill, the first offshore landfill in the region, is proof of Singapore’s innovative spirit and strong engineering capability, in response to the twin challenges of Singapore’s growing waste generation and severe land constraints. This unique approach to waste management balances national development and biodiversity conservation in an environmentally sustainable way.

Semakau Landfill’s Success Story

Launched on 1 April 1999, Semakau Landfill saw several engineering feats, which included deep-sea piling and open sea construction that required the use of large floating cranes for installation of the roof structures. Adding to the challenge was the obstacle of preserving the island’s biodiversity before landfill operations began. Mitigation measures included the replanting of about 400,000-mangrove saplings on two new plots at the northern and southern fringes of the original island during the Phase I development, as well as the harvesting and transplanting of over 700 colonies of corals in the Phase II lagoon to Sisters’ Island. Over 80 species of birds, inclusive of some endangered species, have been spotted around Semakau Landfill. The thriving coral colonies and wild birds in their natural habitat on Semakau Landfill show that the landfill operations and preservation of the local natural environment can be both achieved at the same time.

Winning the award this year also signifies an important milestone on the 20th anniversary of Semakau Landfill. The purpose of the Hassib J. Sabbagh Award is to direct the world’s attention to the role of engineering in sustainable development. The award also includes a cash prize of US$10,000, which NEA will be donating to a WFEO project on capacity building for climate change education in the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS). The donation, which will fund training and teaching aids for climate change awareness in schools, underscores NEA and MEWR’s commitment to international and regional cooperation for climate action, and in supporting developing countries in climate change mitigation and adaption.

Mr Tan Meng Dui, Chief Executive Officer of NEA said, “Achieving this award is a significant milestone, particularly for a relatively young organisation like NEA. The timing of the award is also special and gratifying, as we celebrate Semakau Landfill’s 20th anniversary this year. We are honoured to receive this award, and proud of our engineers who have combined their inventiveness with sheer determination and hard work to great effect, in developing Singapore’s first offshore landfill. The current generation of NEA engineers stands on the shoulders of the past generation. This award is therefore also a recognition of the industry and pioneering spirit of the engineers and leaders that have come before us. I hope this award will inspire everyone in Singapore to all do our part and work together to preserve Semakau Landfill and lengthen her lifespan beyond 2035.”

Details on the past winners for the Hassib J. Sabbagh Award for Engineering Construction Excellence straddle across different infrastructure classes and continents, from China to Africa to Europe and the US.

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