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NEA Wins International Engineering Award For Singapore’s Semakau Landfill

23 Nov 2019

The award honours Semakau Landfill as the first offshore landfill in the region where nature and landfilling operations co-exist           

Singapore, 23 November 2019 – 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.

2          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

3          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.

4          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.

5          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.”

6          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. Past winners can be found in Annex A.

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Past Winners for the Hassib J. Sabbagh Award for Engineering Construction Excellence

Year of Award

Winning Project

Organisation / Individual

Project Details


Nacala Corridor Project

Construction of Nacala Corridor Railway in Eastern Africa

Mota-Engil, an engineering and construction firm

The Nacala Corridor Project was the biggest railway contract in the last 50 years in Africa, with enormous impact in the Eastern Africa Region.


Jinping Hydroelectric Project

Construction and development of hydroelectric power plants at the Yalong River Valley, China

Jinping Project Team, the Yalong River Hydropower Development Company

After endeavors for over a decade, the Jinping Project Team overcame numerous world-level difficulties in construction of the super-tall arch dam and deep-buried tunnels and caverns, and successfully built two huge world-class hydropower plants in China.


London 2012 Olympic Park Project

Design and construction of the London Olympic Park

  • Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA)
  • London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG)
  • Mace Group, consultancy and construction company

Record breaking on and off the track, ODA, LOCOG and their delivery partners conceived, designed, constructed and delivered the most sustainable Olympic and Paralympic facilities ever built, on time and budget to high sustainability standards. The Olympic Park is the largest new urban parkland in Europe for 150 years.


Solar Photovoltaic Project

Design, installation and commissioning of rooftop solar photovoltaic system in Colorado, USA

Dr Riad Zakhem, Solar Horizon

Dr. Zakhem was involved in many Solar Photovoltaic projects from the design phase to the actual construction supervision and commissioning of the system. His innovations included a smart, easy to build rooftop PV system that blends with the existing structure, using the most economical and efficient building techniques to make the PV system economically viable and resilient.



Photos of Semakau Landfill

(Photo credits: National Environment Agency)

Fig 1. An aerial view of Semakau Landfill

Fig 1. An aerial view of Semakau Landfill

Fig 2. An aerial view of the Eastern bund of Semakau Landfill

Fig 2. An aerial view of the Eastern bund of Semakau Landfill.

Fig 3. An aerial view of replanted mangroves Southern plot of Semakau Landfill

Fig 3. An aerial view of replanted mangroves at the Southern plot of Semakau Landfill

Fig 4. An aerial view of replanted mangroves Northern plot of Semakau Landfill

Fig 4. An aerial view of replanted mangroves at the Northern plot of Semakau Landfill.