Singapore's southern coastline, once characterized by mangrove swamps and sandy shores, was integral to the traditional livelihoods of local communities heavily dependent on mangrove ecologies. After being part of the Majapahit Empire and the Sultanate of Malacca, in 1819, British colonial official Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a trading port. The British colonial powers, perceiving mangrove forests as unproductive and uninhabitable, deemed it necessary to replace them with ports and shipyards. Starting in 1822, land reclamation efforts unfolded in areas that now constitute Chinatown and the Raffles Place Central Business District (close to the western tip of the “East Coast” area indicated on the map). Under British colonial rule, Singapore witnessed an influx of migrant workers from China, India, and other nations, who worked on the cultivation of gambier pepper, nutmeg, and later, rubber and pineapple in plantations in inland areas. Despite extensive commercial plantation activities in inland areas, the mangrove ecosystem along the west coast of Singapore, situated away from ports, remained relatively intact. In this preserved habitat, Malay and Chinese communities constructed traditional stilt houses in and around the mangrove swamps.

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