Punggol to retain its fishing village heritage

She grew up in Punggol but, today, Mdm Wee Sah Muay can no longer recognise the area where she had lived for more than 30 years until she moved out in 1975 to Hougang.

The 78-year-old, who used to live at the 20th track near the old Punggol Zoo, told TODAY: “I have no impression of the new place. Everything looks different and the place where I used to stay is now an empty plot of land that the Government will use to build recreational facilities.”

As Punggol is in the midst of being transformed into an eco-town, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) is looking at how to preserve its fishing village heritage for both the younger and older generations.

For instance, the 4.2-kilometre man-made Punggol Waterway, which will be open to visitors from Sunday, runs through the town to provide residents with a waterfront living space, while seeking to retain the seaside charm of the old Punggol.

Features such as a “kelong” bridge, heritage panels and a heartwave wall with motif panels will be built along the waterway for residents to learn about the history of the town as they go about their recreational activities.

The HDB told TODAY that facilities along the waterway such as water play and sand play areas “were designed with community interaction and bonding in mind” to foster a kampong spirit.

Apart from Punggol, other housing estates such as Dawson and Yishun will also see their heritage conserved under the HDB’s Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) programme.

In 1984, the Government approved the North-eastern Coast Reclamation Scheme for Punggol, which involved 875 hectares of shallow foreshore and swamp land from Pasir Ris to Jalan Kayu. The bulk of the reclamation was for new flats.

All the pig farms, boatels – which provided services like docking and renting of boats for boating, water-skiing and skin-diving lessons – and farms were moved out to make way for Sengkang and Punggol new towns. The residents were relocated to various parts of Singapore.

The HDB said that care has been taken to preserve the rich coastal vegetation and mangroves that Punggol used to be known for.

It has replanted freshwater tolerant mangroves at the eastern zone of the waterway and is test bedding the floating wetlands system at the Sunrise Gateway (where visitors can view the sunrise), which will help enhance the water quality in Punggol Waterway.

Mr Daniel Ng, 29, who stays in Punggol, told TODAY: “The new facilities coming up at the Punggol Waterway will provide a lot of recreational choices for residents. The efforts to preserve the history of the town is a bonus. It will allow residents to appreciate the town better.”

A HDB spokesperson said: “Under ROH, HDB brings out the distinct character of each town, builds on what makes the area unique and endearing. HDB recognises the importance of conserving amid rejuvenating the estates. For this reason, there is a heritage area purposefully set aside in each estate to reflect the past.”

Source : Today – 17 Oct 2011

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