Waterwoods EC – A Lifestyle Closer to Nature
With Punggol Waterway around, imagine the lifestyle that you get to enjoy!
Dubbed the Venice of Singapore, the Punggol Waterway is actually a man-made engineering feat delighting nature lovers and fitness enthusiasts alike with its rich offerings of green tranquillity and meandering river flow
In the 1970s, thick green vegetation and mangroves, relieved only by pig and poultry farms, defined the topography of rural Punggol in north-eastern Singapore. Except for the hum of cicadas and the mad crowing of the village cockerels, life was slow and quiet. Fast forward a few decades later, and the farms are no more. Modern facilities and high-rise housing developments have urbanised much of Punggol, one of the last few bastions of rusticity in Singapore to be ushered into the modern age.
However much one may lament over the disappearance of this rural backwater, the 21st Century town that it has become is something to be celebrated ? not least because it boasts an international award-winning waterway that is well loved by its users and all who chance upon it.
Aspiring to create a modern eco-town in Punggol with a thriving community, population and environment, HDB’s dream for Punggol is encapsulated in this vision, ‘Green living by the waters’. The Punggol Waterway, curving gently through the heart of the town, plays a key role as a recreational, educational and water-based hub for sports and other activities. With the new generation of public housing to be developed along its banks, it will bring to life the promise of waterfront living for the residents.
Dawn breaks and the sky is illuminated by the orangey-yellow rays of the sun. One can enjoy this splendid view at the Sunrise Bridge situated at the eastern end of the Punggol Waterway. It is from this bridge that we begin our journey through the waterway and take in the changing sights and sounds as the day progresses.
The waterway was actually never planned for from the start. As Singapore had to increase its water catchment areas to cater to the country’s water needs, the Serangoon and Punggol rivers were dammed up to form two reservoirs. The plan was then to link these reservoirs through a pipeline to allow the transfer of water and to control their water levels. However the planners, architects and engineers of the various government agencies, including HDB which led the project, felt that they could do more than just create a functional conduit. They decided instead to carve out a waterbody that can serve a wider variety of purposes, stretching 4.2 km long, ranging between 10 to 85 m wide and 3 to 4 m deep, roughly the size of 22 football fields, and a water volume equivalent to approximately 200 Olympic sized pools. This is how the waterway was ‘born’.
Where Dawn Breaks
The Sunrise Bridge is found at the Sunrise Gateway at the eastern end of the waterway, where mangroves and floating wetlands hark back to the town’s rural roots. Overlooking the Serangoon Reservoir, this spot with its breathtaking views, is ideal for shutterbugs to capture the sunrise.
Our journey along the waterway continues along a tranquil stretch flanked by plants, shrubs and trees. Other than the occasional jogger or cyclist, the meditative quality of the place offers a welcome respite from the pressures of urban life.
Moving westward now, before long, we see the next bridge ? the Wave Bridge. As its name signifies, the structure resembles and echoes the meandering shape of the waterway, and feels right in place. This is the second of five pedestrian bridges along the winding waterway that allows people to cross over to either side of the banks.
Past to Treasure
The waterway gently widens as we reach the halfway mark. While taking in the change in surroundings, the first thing to grab your attention is a unique bridge formed by a careful juxtaposition of stilts and posts. Reminding one of fishing ‘kelongs’ (wooden platforms), the bridge makes a poetic statement of Punggol’s seafaring past. This bridge is at this spot for a reason. Called the Kelong Bridge, it follows the alignment of the old Punggol Road and leads to a heritage trail where people can discover interesting historical facts about Punggol. There is even a look-out pavilion designed like a hut on stilts.
Abdillah is someone who is delighted that efforts have been made to retain a part of the past in the present. “When I was young I used to cycle here to my friend’s kampong (village). We enjoyed doing many activities like the jetty jump and swimming in the river,” he recalls. “Now I’m living in Punggol and to have these features that remind us of the old Punggol is a great idea, as it retains the identity of this place. My friend who came jogging with me along the waterway finds the Kelong Bridge nostalgic and brings him back to his childhood days.”
On top of making sure the new structures retain certain heritage elements, the planners have also made an effort to conserve bits of the past ? an old bus stop just behind this area has been preserved exactly as it once stood along the dusty, windy old Punggol Road.
Leaving the Heritage Zone and the nostalgic memories behind, we head towards the Recreation Zone. We pass by the Adventure Bridge that resembles a wooden suspension bridge, and sets the mood for the fun atmosphere that is to come. Children are revelling in the sand-play and water-play areas. The doting fathers and mothers meanwhile strike up conversations with the other parents. And the topics run the gamut, from how to soothe colicky babies, to finding the best playschools and eats. It is with this community bonding and interaction in mind that such open play areas are created, so that the ‘kampong’ spirit is preserved alive in this new town.
“It is a great place for families to go down and relax after work or bond. My family loves to cycle frequently along the waterway at night as it is very near our home,” says Mdm Ng, a Punggol resident. Her ten-year-old daughter, Rui En, chirps in and says she enjoys playing at the water-play area and sand pit area with her classmates.
Just like Mdm Ng’s family, hundreds of other families had gathered at the waterway last October 23rd, to join in the opening festivities for the waterway. The blue skies were dotted with kites of different shapes and sizes, and many families were out in full force exploring the waterway’s facilities. Mdm Ng recalls that her family had just shifted into their new home a few months before the opening and were surprised to see the waterway brimming with people and activities. It was not all play, as people were able to learn a thing or two about Punggol’s history from the heritage panels along the Heartwave Wall. Spanning 280 m long, this wall with interspersed vertical greening, formed an apt backdrop for the festivities for the launch of the waterway that evening.
The setting sun casts a warm evening glow around us and we have reached the western end of Punggol Waterway where the Jewel Bridge stands. This would be the place to catch sunsets as it feels almost magical sitting inside the jewel shaped dome aglow with LED lights. A year ago, it was just as magical when fireworks lit up the sky above the Heartwave Wall after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared the waterway open. The launch ceremony was witnessed by more than 10,000 revellers, some of whom had come from the other parts of Singapore to witness the spectacular sight.
Many more have since been to the waterway and enjoyed the expanse of water and greenery, the sights and sounds, of people and nature, and birdcalls and bicycle screeches. Some affectionately call it Singapore’s Venice. Not just because of the placid flowing waters and the activities it supports, but also because of its magical effect on those who visit ? like its namesake that rose from brackish waters to become one of the most celebrated cities of the world.
Keith Tan, another Punggol resident, invites you to visit. “We live nearby and we come here to walk and enjoy other recreational activities. It’s wonderful. Previously, there were not many developments around and the town was pretty quiet. Now, it’s good that they have this waterway. Other Singaporeans should come here and enjoy it too!”
Punggol Waterway awaits you – come, stroll its promenades, soak in some zen serenity, experience the past in the present, and also choose to groove along in any which way.
Revitalising Punggol Town
The Punggol 21 Plus plan to remake Punggol Town was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the 2007 National Day Rally. This was part of HDB’s Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) plans and represented an improved version of earlier plans for the town. The ROH plans aim to realise the vision for new estates, rejuvenate communities in middle-aged estates, and regenerate old estates. The vision of Punggol 21 Plus was to transform Punggol into ‘A Waterfront Town of the 21st Century’ and central to this idea was the Punggol Waterway. My Waterway@Punggol, as it has been named, is Singapore’s longest man-made waterway built at a cost of $225 million. Housing developments and communal spaces are situated next to the waterway to realise the vision of bringing waterfront living to Punggol residents.
The waterway has won many awards including recent ones such as ‘The Global Grand Winner’ for Planning Category, and ‘The Global Superior Achievement Award’ of the 2012 International Water Association Global Project Innovation Awards. It is notable that this is the first time that the Global Superior Achievement Award is conferred on an Asian country.