It has been four years since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sketched out his vision for Punggol, a sleepy suburb located in the northeastern part of Singapore.
It was an ambitious project to transform what some residents have described as a backwater town into a “Waterfront Town of the 21st Century”.
An earlier plan to remake Punggol had hit a bump, when the Asian Financial Crisis struck.
Built at a cost of S$225 million, the new waterway by the Housing and Development Board – described as the “Venice of Punggol” – was finally opened on Sunday evening.
Mr Lee, who was speaking at the opening of the Punggol Waterway, recounted how the waterway was originally conceived as a pipeline between Serangoon and Punggol reservoirs and credited former National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan for making the change.
The project cements Punggol’s claim as Singapore’s first eco-precinct, along with other green features incorporated into the town’s design.
The town, one of the biggest in Singapore, will house some 23,000 families by the end of the year.
In sprucing up old neighbourhoods, Mr Lee said the government will partner residents and the community in the effort.
Mr Lee said: “Every estate that we build will have its own unique identity, its own distinct landmarks, its own particular charm. Each estate will not just be a set of block of flats or precincts, but a home for Singaporeans, a community of residents, a place where friendships are made and memories are formed.”
In designing the waterway, memories of the area have also been preserved.
Alan Tan, Project Director, Waterway@Punggol, said: “For example at the Kelong bridge, we have some ideas of the poles and stilts, which are remnants of the fishing villages of the past in Punggol town. Also in the past, Punggol had a lot of mangroves, and now we’ve incorporated some mangroves into the eastern part of the waterway.”
The man-made river is expected to become the focal point of the new town, which will see 23,000 families by year’s end.
Mr Lee also reiterated the government’s commitment to improve the amenities and conditions in older housing estates like Yishun and East Coast, even as newer ones get a facelift.
The government had announced in February this year that it will set aside S$10 billion over the next 10 years for upgrading projects.
Source : Channel NewsAsia – 23 Oct 2011