Sustainable Cities™

Singapore: Active living with clean water

Singapore’s ambitious ABC plan for sustainable water management comprises clean water, rain water collection and recreational areas. One of the flagships is a dam, the Marina Barrage, which prevents flooding and offers a green urban space with lifestyle attractions. The development of rain water resources, among other things, also saves having to import water from neighbouring countries.

Marina Dæmning (Marina Barrage). Foto venligst udlånt af PUB, Singapores Nationale Vandagentur ©

Singapore's national water agency, PUB, launched a Master Plan in 2006 called ABC Waters; ABC standing for Active, Beautiful and Clean. The vision is to improve water quality, the collection of rainwater and to create new urban spaces and landscapes full of life, activity and a sense of community related to the water. The plan encompasses more than 100 projects, which will be initiated over a period of 10-15 years. More than 20 projects are to be completed in 2012.

Next to Singapore's harbour area is the Marina Barrage is, a large, spiral-shaped structure, which is one of the flagships of the ABC plan. The building has three important functions: as a freshwater reservoir, a recreational urban space and is a measure to prevent flooding in this low-lying area. With a collection area of 10,000 ha, the Marina Barrage creates Singapore's largest water reservoir and the one best integrated into the urban environment. The edifice is also houses a sustainability gallery, the purpose of which is to inform citizens about water and the environment by means of interactive multimedia exhibitions.

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Built across the 350 m wide mouth of the Marina Channel, the Marina Barrage has nine steel gates which can be raised and lower as required. As well as separating sea water from fresh water, it also functions as a tidal barrier, which can withstand high water. In the event of heavy rain, the 5 metre-high steel gates can be lowered and surplus water from the reservoir discharged into the sea. The Marina installation also has a restaurant, a green roof and a 1200 m² photovoltaic cell array. The green roof helps to lower the temperature in doors, reducing the need for air conditioning. The electricity generated by the solar panels supplements the building's external power supply.

German water treatment specialists from Atelier Dreiseitl, which has an office in Singapore, have been involved in several ABC water projects, including the integration of the Kallang River into the city and surrounding parks. Work on interfaces between urban and natural areas involving biotechnology solutions is new to Singapore, for which reason Atelier Dreiseitl has established test areas during the process.
Herbert Dreiseitl of Dreiseitl Atelier said in an interview with the American Society of Landscape Architects:

"The project is really about thinking about the entire island, a huge city, and its vision of the future. It's about making the city more independent and less reliant on other countries for their water resources. At the moment they need a lot of water from abroad, coming in via pipeline from Malaysia, which is actually typical for any major city. From a broad perspective, what is needed for the future is more harmony, partnerships, intelligent and better use of the resources. With a holistic approach, the large amounts of tropical rain that currently flows out to sea can be taken and used in a different manner. That's why Singapore is a very important project."

The vision is to transform Singapore into a city of water and gardens. By integrating lakes and rivers into parks and open spaces, and creating activities such as water sports and communal gardens, the city will become greener and more lively. The Water Agency PUB has in this connection published a Handbook of tools for users and not least private commerce, encouraging them to back and develop sustainable solutions.

 "…having developed a comprehensive base of water infrastructure, we should now take a new step forward. Our waterways and reservoirs should do more than meet our water needs. They should also enhance our living environment and lifestyle. In the past we protected our water resources by keeping people away from them; now we will bring people closer to water so that they will enjoy and cherish it more."
Speech by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the inauguration of the ABC Waters project on 6 February 2007

Cleaning up the river from canoes

In August 2009, 40 students from the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) canoe club went into action to clean up the Kallang River. The project was the canoe club's first social responsibility project and was initiated to enhance students' responsibility vis-à-vis pollution and the aquatic environment. And people are certainly interested in engaging in voluntary community work. A study has shown that 7 out of 10 students are prepared to participate in voluntary work, especially if their friends also take part.

The participating students point out believe that public sector cleaning operations are efficient enough but that many tourists in the area are not good enough at abiding by the rules and binning their rubbish. The river-cleaning expedition involved 20-25 canoes and covered some 10 km of river. The rubbish collected was later sorted for recycling.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014