Canal pleasures

This story was first published in The Straits Times on June 28, 2013

The haze over the past couple of weeks has cast a pall over outdoor activities. But if the weather holds out over the weekend, stir-crazy folks cooped up indoors can head for some idyllic water spots located right in their backyards.

There are currently 27 Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) projects all over the island. The long-term initiative aims to transform Singapore's drains, canals and reservoirs into streams, rivers and lakes that are also recreational spaces.

More than 100 potential sites have been identified for ABC Waters Implementation by 2030.

The ABC Waters Programme even bagged the Public Utilities Board the Utility Performance Initiative of the Year at the Global Water Awards 2013.

From Sengkang to Jurong to Kallang Bahru, Life!Weekend takes a look at five of the lesser known projects, where you can take a stroll, cycle, fish and even race remote-controlled boats.

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Completed in 2011, the 1.2km stretch of Alexandra Canal from Tanglin Road to Delta Road has become an open waterway.

A short stretch of the waterway has been decked over to create a water cascade and a shallow stream. A series of viewing decks gives visitors and residents a bird's eye view of the waterway.

There is a series of urban wetlands with flora and fauna such as turtles and aquatic plants, which help clean the water. They also provide outdoor learning opportunities for nearby schools such as Crescent Girls' School.

When Life!Weekend visits on a weekday afternoon, stay-at-home dad Gary Millers, 44, is keeping an eye on his son Ayden. The eight-year-old is zipping up and down the viewing decks on his skate scooter.

Mr Millers, an Australian expatriate who has been living in the area for four years, appreciates the effort to beautify the area. He notes: "We like the park. It's quiet and there are not many cars. There are not many places in Singapore that are this compact."

Domestic worker Loida Cantano, 41, whose employer also lives in a nearby condominium, enjoys walking at the viewing decks at night. She says: "It's nice to walk here and it's very breezy. I also like the view of the water features."

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The three-year-old Sengkang Floating Wetland at Punggol Reservoir provides a natural habitat for birds and fish and plant species such as dwarf papyrus, piai raya and pandan wangi.

Located just behind Serangoon Sports and Recreation Centre, its features include boardwalks that get you up close and personal with the water plants.

Dotting the boardwalks is a large mangosteen-shaped shelter, as well as benches shaped like oranges cut in half. There are also educational signboards all around, with information about the wetland ecosystem.

The first of its kind in Singapore, the floating wetland also connects the Anchorvale Community Club and Sengkang Sports Complex on one bank, and the Sengkang Riverside Park on the other bank.

Junior college student Kelvin Tan, 17, lives a 10-minute walk from the wetland and often goes there to study. The eldest of three siblings, he enjoys the peace and quiet in the area.

"Here, you can get close to nature and it's different from other parks because it's connected to other areas.

"You can reach Punggol and Serangoon from here. It's also ideal for running and cycling at night, which I do once a month. Sometimes, I come here with my siblings too."


Sitting in the shadow of HDB blocks that surround it, Kolam Ayer ABC Waterfront is the result of a project that has transformed a 250m stretch of Kallang River between Bendemeer Road and Kolam Ayer Pedestrian Bridge.

Located in Kallang Bahru, the project brings the waterfront literally to the doorstep of the heartlander. The main features of the Kolam Ayer project include water sensitive landscaping along the riverbanks, a floating deck and tiled pavements.

There are also interactive water features such as a water wheel with bicycle pedals and three Archimedean screws for visitors to play and get closer to the water.

Completed in 2010, kayaking and dragon boating are also a regular feature along this stretch of water. Kolam Ayer Community Centre also conducts regular elementary kayaking clinics here, on the first Saturday of every month, which start from $18 for members.

Retiree Syed Esa, 63, lives just five minutes' walk from the water. The grandfather of six often takes relatives and visitors to the water body.

"It's beautiful and very peaceful here. The kids will run about and they like to play with the wheels," says Mr Syed, who has been living in the area for almost a decade.

He adds: "I like the river. It's a very different feeling from when I'm in the city because they developed this place with the concept of a natural riverside."


The three-year-old Pandan Reservoir in the West Coast is a vibrant water sports arena for canoeing, sailing and rowing, with an amenities centre housing the offices of several national sports associations.

Landscaping and wetlands help soften the banks of the reservoir, while there are also platforms for viewing and fishing, as well as radio-controlled boating.

There is an unusual-shaped pontoon boardwalk, with space for anglers and strollers alike. Fountains also spout water between 11am and 2pm and 8 and 9pm.

When Life!Weekend visits on a Monday afternoon, there are almost 10 anglers along the boardwalk, casting their lines and comparing their catches.

One of them is Tan Kwang Jie, 18. The ITE student is a keen angler who travels all the way from his home in Toh Guan to Pandan Reservoir every few months. He says: "I come here to be alone. It's quiet and peaceful for people to fish. You can catch fish such as tilapia."

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Located near Yuan Ching Road and Chinese Gardens MRT station, Jurong Lake was designed as a water playground for families in the west.

Completed in 2010, amenities include a stage, a viewing promenade for community events and a boardwalk for visitors to enjoy views of the lake. Wetlands also keep the waters clean and attract wildlife such as fish and birds.

Kayaking and dragon boating are a regular feature on the lake, with dedicated lanes for competitive rowing. There is also a water activity-based centre operated by the People's Association.

Automated fountains on the lake also go off three times every day, from 7 to 9am, noon to 2pm and 6 to 9pm.

Technician Ruzaman Mohd (top), 45, grew up in the area and comes to Jurong Lake once a week. A passionate angler, he is drawn by the many species of fish in the lake such as snakehead, tilapia and soon hock.

"I have at least one catch each time I come here," says the father of one who grew up in the area and has been frequenting the water spot for the last three decades.

He adds: "It was more natural last time, with a lot of aquatic vegetation and a very good ecosystem for the fish. The water looks clean, but it all feels a bit artificial. But it's still a nice place to hang out. I bring my wife and daughter here on weekends, they ride bicycles and we have quality time."

Gardener Johnny Yek, 67, helps maintain the greenery around Jurong Lake and says he has a great job. "I love working here because of the scenery. It's very quiet and peaceful. It's my wife's favourite place for morning walks, and sometimes, I accompany her."

This story was first published in The Straits Times on June 28, 2013

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