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Sand grab: how Singapore’s growth is taking the land out from under Cambodians’ feet

Singapore is a tiny country with outsized influence. The Southeast Asian island nation packs some 5.6 million people into just 278 square miles, making it the third most densely populated country in the world. Its wealth is mostly built on oil but, due to a growing population, a booming economy and rising sea levels brought on by climate change, land is quickly becoming its most precious resource. Uninterested in reining in expansion, the government has a plan: through what is known as ‘land reclamation’, Singapore has expanded its size by some 24 per cent since it first gained independence in 1965, and plans to expand another 8 per cent by 2030.

Between 2007 and 2017, much of the sand used for Singapore’s physical growth was dredged and shipped from Cambodia, with little say from the villagers who were most affected. Lost World follows Vy Phalla, a Cambodian woman whose way of life is stolen from beneath her feet, as the industrial dredging process damages the waterways and mangrove forests that she and her fishing community depend on. Tracing Phalla’s journey from her modest island home to Singapore’s lush Cloud Forest botanical gardens – a tourist attraction built on reclaimed soil – this short documentary offers a vital perspective on artificial land, which has emerged as an urgent environmental and geopolitical issue over the past decade. Read more about Lost World at Emergence Magazine.

Director: Kalyanee Mam

Producers: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, Adam Loften

Website: GO Project Films

28 February 2019

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