Concrete canal in Tampines turned into naturalised waterway in 3rd such project in S'pore

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 the 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 stormwater runoff before it is discharged into the river.

An existing park connector has been rebuilt so it hangs over the river, and there are also 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.

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“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. Tampines is really fast becoming an eco-town, a green, 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 this 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 are 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.

The reason other canals have not been naturalised is due to site constraints and the lack of space, PUB added.

This is also why only canal bank next to Tampines Eco Green park were naturalised in this latest project as there was the space to do so.

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“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 (ABC) 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.

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.