Today is a holiday. The sun is out. A perfect excuse to visit the work-in-progress Bishan Park, about 10 minutes drive from home. I pass it everyday on my way to and from work. Some parts are covered up, but progressively I can see some interesting fixtures taking shape. It is reported to cost S$76 million and was in fact an election issue earlier this year. From afar, even as a layman, I can see why it is costly. It is a very long stretch of land and from the architectural drawings on the fence, it seems like a first-of-its-kind undertaking.
When I parked and moved around some parts of the still unfinished landscaped grounds, I realised I have chanced upon an amazing project. It has an inventive concept. It is bringing Kallang River into Bishan Park! There is a programme to transform an already green Singapore into a ‘City of Gardens and Water’. It is the ‘Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters’ or ‘ABC Waters’ programme by PUB. The flagship project of this programme is Bishan Park! A joint collaboration between PUB and NParks, it is called ‘ABC Waters@Kallang River-Bishan Park’. It will see the conversion of a concrete canal into a natural meandering river, seamlessly integrated with the park for the first time in Singapore.
There will be a ‘River Promenade’, as well as three new playgrounds, each with a distinctive theme. This new park will also be home to diverse wildlife with habitats created to encourage certain species to settle and thrive. A part of the ‘Bishan River Plains’ is open to the public. The river should be ready by the end of this year.’Bishan Park Pond Gardens’ is still undergoing construction, and will be open by the second quarter of next year.
To give the 3km man-made waterway the natural feel of a river, a system known as soil bio-engineering techniques, the use of plant materials and traditional engineering methods, are employed. It combines soil retention function with aesthetics and ecological considerations in the creation of a natural river with landscaped banks. This is the first time these techniques are applied in urbanised Singapore; a test bed was constructed earlier to check the various techniques in this tropical climate.
“As a strong new impulse for the future, an infrastructure that can be appreciated and accessed by citizens which at the same time respects the environment in a sustainable manner also brings about a subtle change in behaviour and thinking,” said a Mr Herbert Dreiseitl, who worked on the park and river design. “And it is through this change that we can begin to create places which are vibrant, healthy and full of socio-cultural liveliness. Bishan Park has already the beginnings of this, and bringing the river and water element back to the people, will further enhance the place.”
Mr Dreiseitl added, “To integrate the redesigned Kallang River with the park, the interface between the two zones between park and river, urban and nature is carefully considered and designed in a manner to commensurate with the naturalistic character of the river.”
The ‘ABC Waters’ design features also carefully select plants with natural cleansing properties to treat water. These features will beautify the surroundings as well as maintain the water quality of the ponds in the park and the river naturally without the use of chemicals. In addition, a portion of the water will be recycled for the use of the shallow water play in the ‘Water Playground’.
The structures of the river and streams are ready for the inflow of water from the Kallang River. All the plants will need to grow into their own. I can see the makings of another ‘Singapore Wonder’, but this time it is an oasis in the HDB heartland, created primarily for Singaporeans. A sprawling park with restaurants, playgrounds, dog-run, spa and in-line skates, it breaks through concrete monotony to provide needed serenity. It is different from other parks in Singapore in that it is organic to its environment in more ways than one. I look forward to the completed Bishan Park.