Feb 7, 2007

S'pore set to be city of gardens and water

Plan to transform rivers, reservoirs, canals to recreation centres unveiled

By Tan Hui Yee

SINGAPORE is on the way to becoming the Water City, with the unveiling of an ambitious plan to transform its reservoirs, rivers and canals into recreation centres over the next 10 to 15 years.

Already, around 20 projects are in the pipeline, encompassing some of the 150 locations earmarked for possible makeovers. These first 20 projects promise to turn bare concrete canals into landscaped channels and some reservoirs into watersports havens over the next five years.

There is even a plan to create an underground park connector.

The massive undertaking by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) - called the Active, Beautiful and Clean Waters programme - aims to encourage water conservation by allowing more access to the water's edge as well as water-based activities.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who opened an exhibition featuring some of the future projects at the Asian Civilisations Museum yesterday, said the project would help realise the concept of Singapore as a 'city of gardens and water'.

Integrating water features into new developments is already a priority, seen in projects like the upcoming 94ha gardens ringing Marina Bay and the Housing Board's first waterfront flats on Bendemeer Road.

Mr Lee said: 'In the past, we used to protect our water resources by keeping people away from them. Now, we bring people closer to the water so that they will enjoy it and cherish it more.'

Singapore has a large network of 14 reservoirs, 32 of the larger rivers and more than 7,000km of canals and drainage channels.

Under the first phase of the programme announced last year, the PUB said it was spending $23 million to upgrade the Bedok and MacRitchie reservoirs and a stretch of Kallang River at Kolam Ayer.

Yesterday, the Board announced that at least 20 more projects will be carried out over the next five years. The cost of the work has yet to be finalised, as detailed designs will depend on feedback from the public.

Two new reservoirs will be created by damming Sungei Serangoon and Sungei Punggol. Together with the upcoming reservoir in Marina Bay, it will increase Singapore's water catchment area from the current half of its land area to two-thirds.

Other highlights include a water stage for outdoor performances and a bridge spanning Lower Seletar Reservoir, a boardwalk on Rochor Canal suitable for street bazaars, and a park connector along Sungei Bedok that travels under Laguna National Golf & Country Club.

The PUB is also keen to get the public as involved as possible.

It collects about 15 tonnes of litter daily from float-booms installed at various river mouths, a figure it hopes will be cut if people realise the rubbish they leave behind will directly pollute their drinking water.

The president of the Nature Society, Dr Geh Min, said: 'Civil society - not just organisations, but individuals - has to take more responsibility for keeping our drinking water clean, to protect it and appreciate it as a source of life.'

Grassroots leader Roy Cheng from Bishan, where a concrete canal will be turned into a river with landscaped banks, advocated the idea of residents 'adopting' the waterways near their estates to keep them clean and make activities there safe.

He said: 'It's important for residents to feel that they own the place.'

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