The Early Years
The earliest drainage network in Singapore began as a public health measure. In the early 1900s, malaria was rampant as the malaria vector – the Anopheles mosquito – thrived in warm weather and bred easily in pools of stragnant water. To combat this, an anti-malarial drainage system was introduced in 1914 to convey seepage water and prevent formation of stagnant pools. The network compromised naturally-formed earth streams, subsoil pipes and concrete drains. With the growth and urbanisation of Singapore, the anti-malaria drains also served the purpose of flood alleviation.
In 1951, a Joint Committee on Flood Alleviation was formed. A number of flood alleviation projects were carried out in 1950s and 1960s, mainly in flood-prone areas such as Queenstown, Geylang, Bedok, Potong Pasir, Whampoa, Jurong, Tampines and Seletar. It was important to alleviate flooding in these areas, as they were densely built-up and flooding would affect a large number of residents. To improve their capacities to convey flood water to the sea, teh drains serving these areas were widened, deepened and concrete-lined.
At the same time, a tidal-gate system was also designed for the Central Business District and other areas in central Singapore tha were below the high tide level and faced frequent flooding during high tides.
In the mid-1970s, the Drainage Department from the Ministry of Environment worked with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Housing Development Board and other agencies to draw up a comprehensive drainage masterplan. Taking into consideration the drainage requirements based on current and projected land uses, the masterplan guided the provisions of drainage systems and set aside drainage reserves for future requirements. The plan also targeted known flood-prone areas flood alleviation projects were laid out.
Some of these achievements are illustrated below:
The Singapore River is an important waterway and the main corridor for business activities for many decades. The river became heavily polluted from extensive business activities in and around the river until it was transformed in 1987 after a massive 10-year clean-up involving many agencies.
Today, the Singapore River is a popular recreational and cultural venue. It is one of the five rivers that flows into the Marina Reservoir.
The Geylang River is the main drainage artery serving the Geylang area and Tanjong Katong drainage catchment. PUB spent some S$41 million to alleviate the flood situation in the area. Today, it is a clean and beautiful waterway that is both functional and aesthetically-pleasing.