SINGAPORE - What used to be a drab concrete canal next to Tampines Eco Green park is now a verdant naturalised waterway after a section of Sungei Tampines was given a makeover that will also protect the area against flooding.
Widened and deepened, the 1.4km waterway between Tampines Avenue 7 and Tampines Expressway (TPE) has 30 per cent more drainage capacity, providing a better defence for the surrounding areas during intense rainstorms.
Officially opened on Saturday (July 30) after four years of construction, the project is the first extensive naturalisation of a concrete canal here since 2012, when a 2.7km stretch of the Kallang River in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park was turned into a natural river.
Some naturalisation was also done in 2019 for another part of the Kallang River, between Bishan and Braddell roads, but on a much smaller scale.
Another improvement in Sungei Tampines consists of three "rain gardens" designed to retain and cleanse storm water run-off before it is discharged into the river.
An existing park connector has also been rebuilt so it hangs over the river, and there are new lookout decks to bring the public closer to the water.
Additionally, a reconstructed pedestrian linkway near the TPE and a new bridge near Block 496C will provide better connectivity for residents, said national water agency PUB.
On Saturday, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and the Environment Baey Yam Keng, who is the MP for Tampines North, called the opening of the improved canal "a special moment".
"I'd like to thank the residents living around here for your understanding. The works I know were quite disturbing, noisy, a lot of dust. But thank you for bearing with it so today we can reap the fruits," he said.
"In one to two years' time, there will be a new park, Tampines Boulevard Park, just next to Eco Green. So residents have a lot to look forward to. Tampines is really fast becoming an eco-town - a green and clean town for our residents to enjoy."
PUB said the 1.4km section of the 3.3km-long Sungei Tampines canal was selected for upgrading in 2018 to serve new public housing estates in Tampines North.
Construction started in May 2018 and was completed earlier this month.
A 1.1km section further downstream, between the TPE and Pasir Ris Drive 3, had previously been upgraded in 2015, but it did not involve drainage improvements or any naturalisation.
For the more recent project, PUB said the soil bio-engineering techniques used to naturalise one side of the canal were similar to those used in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park a decade ago.
The plants grown on the naturalised river bank stabilise the soil and foster a robust native habitat for biodiversity.
Meanwhile, the greenery added to the canal's base helps to soften its concrete hardscape, the agency added.
PUB said the naturalisation was done mainly to make the area more liveable as Tampines North is not a flooding hot spot nor flood-prone.
It is unlike the naturalised river in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, which uses adjacent park space as a flood plain to store excess rainwater during storms.
Other canals have not been naturalised because of site constraints and lack of space, PUB added.
This is also why only the canal bank next to Tampines Eco Green park was naturalised in the latest project as there was the space to do so.
"In land-scarce Singapore, it is not possible to adopt a naturalised canal design for all the drainage infrastructure," the agency said in response to queries.
"Sufficient space is required to design a naturalised canal, while at the same time meet the hydraulics needs for drainage infrastructure."
Costing $48 million, the latest improvements to Sungei Tampines canal are part of PUB's Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme, which was started in 2006 to spruce up water bodies here.
To date, 51 ABC Waters projects have been completed.
Another six projects will be completed in the next five years, including Alkaff Lake in Bidadari Park next year, as well as a 60 per cent increase in drainage capacity for a section of Siglap Canal.
The opening of the improved Sungei Tampines waterway on Saturday was held in conjunction with National Day celebrations organised for more than 400 residents.
Besides Mr Baey, Tampines GRC MPs Masagos Zulkifli, who is Minister for Social and Family Development, and Mr Desmond Choo, who is North East District Mayor, also attended the event.
More community events are expected to be held on the banks of the naturalised canal, including Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations.
Tampines resident Ng Shu Qi, 25, said it is now easier for her to access Tampines Eco Green park with the new bridge at Block 496C, and the canal’s facelift also makes the area more conducive for a jog or walk.
“I think it is very pretty, with the greenery and everything,” said the engineer.
The newly reopened park connectors along the canal got a thumbs up from cyclists Gavin Choo, 45, Lynn Tan, 46, and Katelyn So, 44.
Said Mr Choo, a client manager in the social services sector: “It connects us with the rest of the estate, which is really good because we don’t have to use pedestrian paths and make a huge detour.”