Processing Magazine

Cities of the Future: An Urban River Park is Transforming Singapore’s Water Infrastructure

March 21, 2012

CH2M HILL, a global full-service consulting, design, construction, and operations firm, announced that as a milestone of the Active, Beautiful and Clean (ABC) Waters Programme, the Kallang River at Bishan Park project in Singapore officially opened on March 17.

Kallang River at Bishan Park has been transformed from a linear utilitarian concrete drainage channel into a meandering, natural river landscape. CH2M HILL partnered with Atelier Dreiseitl to create an integrated approach to waterway management for the ABC Waters Programme that incorporates engineering, science, landscape design, the behavioral framework of urban design, and a commitment to community involvement.

Kallang River at Bishan Park was identified as a strategic ABC Waters Programme showcase project. The park was due for major refurbishment and the Kallang River was a straight edge canal that draws a distinct separation line between the park and the nearby residential estate. There were endless possibilities on how to integrate the river to the park. This facilitates integrated water and land use management with the park serving as a floodplain during extreme rainfall and the river as an extension of the park during dryer days. The channel was empty most of the time, but would fill rapidly to a depth of up to two meters high in the typical burst downpours that characterize the tropics.

The Kallang River-Bishan Park project transformed 3 kilometers of Singapore’s longest river from a concrete canal into a natural river with bioengineered slopes and landscaped banks. The new river teems with life, and has shown a 30% increase in biodiversity even before construction was completed. A first in the tropics, soil bioengineering techniques have been used to stabilize the river banks so that they can withstand strong flood flows and also provide habitats for flora and fauna. The flood plains provide generous open space for recreational activities, and in the case of a heavy down pour, the park functions like a real river plain, allowing the river water to spread and slowing the waters down through friction thus reducing the hydraulic overload of the river in more dense urban areas downstream.

The ABC Waters Programme is designed to ensure a sustainable future for Singapore by increasing the public’s understanding of the vital role waterways play in daily life, increasing native vegetation and fauna, improving the stormwater system, and greening the city to improve the environment. The ABC Waters Programme formally launched this approach in 2006 with 20 projects being initiated over the first five years from 2007-2012 and 100 targeted for by 2025.

Singapore has become a world leader in integrated urban water management, diversifying its water sources and using large scale urban rainwater harvesting for its drinking water supply. Singapore has also seen the integrated management of its water resources as an opportunity to upgrade the city civic space, creating new space for recreation, nature and community. Bishan Park is an inspiring example of how a city park can function as ecological infrastructure, a smart combination of water source, flood management, biodiversity and recreation.