IT MAY not be the Mekong but Singapore’s first river relocation project is set to make waves at Bishan Park.
The concrete of the Kallang drainage canal will be torn up and the waterway brought into the park as a meandering river, complete with gentle slopes and plant-covered banks.
Costing about $76 million, the flagship project is part of the Active Beautiful Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme from Singapore’s water authority PUB, in collaboration with the National Parks Board.
The stretch of canal currently runs along the length of the park.
During its conversion into a 3km- long river, it will be worked on in sections to minimise disruption for the park’s three million annual visitors. It will be completed in 2011.
The project, ABC Waters@Kallang River-Bishan Park, aims to be environmentally sustainable. The old concrete from the original canal will be recycled to help stabilise the new river banks, and any trees displaced by the construction will be replanted in the park or recycled and used as part of the river banks.
Last December, work began on a 60m test-bed project at the park to study the plants and materials most suitable for lining the banks of the new river.
This is the first time soil bioengineering – the combination of plants with traditional engineering – has been used in a tropical climate.
One of the designers of the new river, Mr Herbert Dreiseitl, founder of city planning firm Atelier Dreiseitl Asia, explained that an important lesson learnt from the test bedding was that ’some of the plants grow too fast in the tropical climate, this will lead to high maintenance costs – so we won’t be using them’.
The river and planting project will halve the speed of rain torrents, which currently run through the park at about 7.2kmh, or at a jogging pace.
This will help cut down on surges into the canal system during heavy rain, which can lead to flash floods.
‘We expect the river to be safer than before. We will be using non-slippery surfaces by the side of the river. and the shallow valley will mean it will flow very slowly,’ added Mr Dreiseitl, who is working with engineering firm CH2M Hill Singapore on the project.
Barriers will still be in place at steep banks but gentle slopes will allow park goers to dip their toes at the water’s edge, fish and see the rich biodiversity – frogs, dragonflies and fish – found in the test-bed area.
The foliage along the banks also serves as a filtration system for the water, extracting phosphates and nitrates, as well as some heavy metals, leading to cleaner water flowing into Marina Reservoir.
Mr Yap Kheng Guan, PUB’s director of the 3P Network, said: ‘There are so many blue spaces in Singapore; if we can turn them into interesting spaces, we are really adding a new dimension to Singapore life.
‘When people enjoy the river, they want to keep it clean. We have seen this at Kolam Ayer (the ABC Waters pilot project completed in April last year).’
The upgraded park will also feature a river promenade, which can play host to events, and three new playgrounds – an adventure playground for active teens, a bubble playground set in sand for young children and a water playground.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will officially launch the project tomorrow at the Teck Ghee Lantern Night to be held in Bishan Park 2.
Source : Straits Times – 2 Oct 2009