Knotty issue

Published: Saturday 15 November 2003

Bone of contention: the reclai (Credit: TEE TEOH)The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (itlos) at Hamburg, Germany, has directed Singapore not to carry out land reclamation work in a way that is damaging to the marine environment, or to Malaysian interests. The court, however, rejected Malaysia's plea seeking a complete suspension of the activity in the Straits of Johor.

The issue has sparked a major row between the two countries. Malaysia contends that Singapore's unilateral reclamation activities along the straits that the two countries share would be ruinous due to its prospects of becoming a regional shipping hub, with a narrowed sea lane obstructing vessels headed for ports in the southernmost Johor state. The country has also been pointing to the harm that the reclamation work -- involving about 5,214 hectares of sea area -- would cause to the marine environment along the straits.

The court ordered the countries to exchange information and work together to establish a group of independent experts to study the effects of the reclamation work and propose measures to counter the adverse effects.

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