Under the Benjamin Sheares Bridge in Singapore



artist impression of kallang river_sm The artist impression of the Benjamin Sheares Bridge and include developments in Tanjong Rhu.

A Walk in the Park

This is the conclusion chapter of the Benjamin Sheares Bridge blog topic here , here and   here .

On New Year Day on 1 January, 2015, I took a bus trip to the Marina Promenade behind Singapore Flyer to the end of Beach Road (Nicoll Highway).

As my previous trips were made to blog the walk at the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, it would be incomplete for me to explore the place under the bridge.

It was my first visit to Marina Promenade and the photos are posted to share on this blog.

Tracking back my memories to my first job in 1967 at former Koon Hoe & Co, the storehouse was located at Kallang Road (now at Lavendar MRT station).  I vividly remember that at the rear of the storehouse, it was the murky, polluted and foul-smelling Kallang River where several boatyards and sawmills were situated.  The color of the water in the river was black and the polluted “liquid” was discharged towards Kallang Basin and the open sea.

How different the clear, clean water at the estuary of Kallang Basin to flow towards the sea now.

At the Marina Promenade, I gazed at the breathtaking spectacular sea views of Kallang Basin on the eastern and southern sides.  I was mesmerized by the unblock views across Kampong Glam towards the city skyline on the western and northerns sides.  The views capture the best of both worlds – the serene,  awe-inspiring sea views of Kallang Basin and beyond, and the colorful, busy landscapes of the city centre.

Visitors to the place who love the sea and capture the moments of Mother Nature to breath the fresh air and salty sea water in the cooling breeze.   The place was not crowded and there were about a dozen young and old to exercise and jog.  There were also benches under the Benjamin Sheares Bridge and I noticed some reading or listening to music on their portable radios with ear-plugs.

The calmness and tranquility of the place which held a lot of emotion for many people who need balance in our daily busy life activities, far away from the maddening crowd.  Silence is golden ….. peace, joy and health can only be obtained by entering into one’s silent self and to learn mindfulness to help meditation practices.

The Marina Promenade Park is designed and build park connectors around the waterfront and all over Singapore for Singaporeans to enjoy.





























A group of young canoers taking a rest at the riverbank

new_PicsArt_1420544017028 new_PicsArt_1420544073032


The wooden benches located below the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.


Duck Tour at Kallang River under Benjamin Sheares Bridge








Kampong Kallang in the Past

aerial view of kallang river2_smKallang River Mouth c 1987

The archived photos on this blog are shared with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore.

Cleaning Kallang River in the 1980s

By 1977, decades of development and lack of long-term planning in Singapore had resulted in heavy pollution in the waterways of the city-state, threatening its very survival. This paper analyses the strategies to clean the Singapore River and Kallang Basin as part of an overall development plan which aimed at sustained growth. It also analyses the economic, social and environmental dimensions of these strategies not only to improve the conditions of the rivers and their surroundings, but also to develop the city-state, provide its population with an improved quality of life, including clean environment, and most importantly, propel Singapore towards the path to sustainability and economic prosperity.

The then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew did not consider river pollution as an isolated problem: he rightly noted that it was the end result of all other pollution problems prevalent in the city-state. If the nation was to develop as a productive industrial society, and the population was to be provided with an improved quality of life, the solutions to the issues affecting the population of Singapore in general, and those living around the Singapore River in particular, had to be considered, planned and implemented within an overall framework that would consider financial, legal, institutional, policy and management issues.

In March 1969, Prime Minister Lee called on the drainage engineers in the Public Works Department and water engineers in the Public Utility Board to work together on a plan to solve the environmental problems associated with the rivers of Singapore.

kallang river from beach road

cleaning kallang river

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cleaning kallang river2_sm

The rains held off as flood waters receded in all parts of Singapore and victims of the massive weekend flooding counted their loss. The floods had caused heavy damage to property, livestock and poultry. At a spot in Kallang River alone, environment workers recovered 200 pig carcasses. Date: 4/12/1978.

no dumping sign_sm
Litter along the riverbank of the Kallang River near the Oasis Restaurant inspite of the “No Dumping” sign. c 1976

kallang malay village

Postcard with view of Malay village across the Kallang River in Singapore, with floating logs in the waters belonging to nearby sawmills.  c 1910

sampans in kallang river

Scene of Kallang from the sea – sampans in the river, platform resting on stilts with shed to cover the goods.  c 1946

wood sawmill workers Sawmill workers in Kallang.  c 1950

ship repairerA ship repairer working at Kallang River c 1950

kallang river malay villagekampong kallang_sm

Kampong Kallang – Youths and children posing for photographer in front of waterside houses of a Malay village on the bank of Kallang River. c 1900s

chinese junks in kallang river_smChinese junks at Kallang River c 1973

tongkang at kallang riverA “tongkang” at Kallang River. c 1973

sampans in kallang river3

 The sampan delivers boxes of Coca Cola soft drinks to the villagers c 1970s

seaplane at kallang riverSeaplane at Kallang River, off Kallang Airport.  c 1946

pm lee kuan yew boatride

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Mrs Lee taking a boat ride down the Singapore River and Kallang River for inspection in conjunction with the “Clean Rivers Commoration ’92” on 2/9/1987.

pm lee kuan yew inspect kallang river

Crocodiles at Kallang River

crocodiles at kallang river1_sm

crocodiles at kallang river2_sm Crowds keeping a lookout for crocodiles at Kallang River. Date: 2/11/1976

attap fire_sm

Four weeping Chinese women who lost their houses and belonging during a fire at two hundred closely-built huts in a Chinese settlement of banks of Kallang River on 7/5/1951.

tg rhu squattersIllegal squatters along the banks of Kallang River in 1986.

The Cleaning Operation:  1977 – 1986

Excerpts of the academic papers by Yugal Joshi, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore, Cecilia Tortajada* (corresponding author), Third World Centre for Water Management, Mexico and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS.
Asit K. Biswas, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, Singapore.

This paper is part of a broader research project on urban water management in Singapore sponsored by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, Singapore, and the Third World Centre for Water Management, Mexico.

By early 1977, much of the environmental work and control activities of the river polluting sources had already been planned or were under consideration by the appropriate authorities. The cleaning of the various rivers had progressed close to the mouth of the basin, but the mouth itself and the catchment areas still represented a major challenge in ensuring significant improvement in water quality. This is because some 44,000 squatters were still living in unsanitary conditions in the vicinity of the rivers, and liquid and solid wastes from the hawkers, vegetable vendors and markets and unsewered  premises, continued representing various sources of pollution. In addition, 610 pig farms and 500 duck farms were still draining untreated wastes into the rivers, specially into the Kallang Basin.

On 27 February 1977, during the opening ceremony of the Upper Peirce Reservoir, Prime  Minister Lee gave a definite target to the Ministry of Environment to clean the Singapore  River and Kallang Basin.

Similarly, Kallang Basin’s new sandy beaches and parks transformed it into a location for water sports and other recreational activities, promenades and numerous commercial activities. In addition to these, the rivers clean-up supported other long-term development plans. Economic development along the banks of the Singapore River, for example, or construction of a mass rapid transit tunnel under the Singapore River would have been impossible if the river and its surroundings had remained severely congested and polluted.

Our fellow Friends of Yesterday (FOYers) Otterman speaks on this blog topic here .

Heritage blogger and author, Lam Chun See who hosts Tim’s articles, provides the important clarification:

“Your teachers did right to warn you to keep clear of the Kallang River. If you had fallen in, you were unlikely to be attacked by crocodiles. More likely you would be overwhelmed by the stench of dead chickens, pigs and other animals. … We kampong folks [upriver] used to call the Kallang River, “Dead Chicken River“? “

Earlier in his blog, Chun See had written,

“Many of the village folks (not our family, I must declare) used to discard dead animals like chickens, dogs and even pigs into the river. The resulting stench was sometimes so strong that whenever we walked or cycled past the river, we had to hold our breaths. Sometimes, when the tide was low, you could even see the maggots crawling all over the carcasses, a sight that even we kampong kids found it difficult to stomach”.

Please read the 5 interesting facts about the Cleaning up of Singapore River .

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