Mr Tan Gee Paw, Chairman PUB

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Imagine looking out of your HDB apartment window and instead of seeing a huge concrete canal, you set your eyes on a sparkling river with landscaped banks, with kayakers paddling in the stream, with lively play areas for children, and with boardwalks and bridges for families to enjoy outings together.  

2. This is not a far-fetched scenario.  Singapore has an extensive water network that spans 14 reservoirs, 32 major rivers and more than 7,000 km of other waterways including canals and drains.  Few cities in the world have such a pervasive and well-integrated network of waterways. 

3. Our waterways were built primarily for functional reasons.  Our drains and canals were developed as infrastructure for flood prevention, and our reservoirs for water storage.  This remains the main purpose of our water infrastructure, which delivers our supply of drinking water, and controls drainage and wastewater management.  

4. But having developed a comprehensive base of water infrastructure, we should now take the next step forward.  Our waterways should do more than meet our water needs. They should also enhance our living environment and lifestyle.  This calls for a bold change of mindset.  In the past, we protected our water resources by keeping people away from them; now, we will bring people closer to water so that they will enjoy and cherish it more.   Many of our rivers and canals are in or close to the residential heartlands.  The waterways are therefore a natural focal point for water-based activities, community events, and other recreational options.   By linking up our water bodies and waterways, we will create new community spaces that are clean, pleasant, and bustling with life and activities.   We will integrate our water bodies with our parks and green spaces and turn Singapore into a “city of gardens and waters”.  


5. This is what we aim to achieve with the ABC Waters programme.  There are three broad elements in the programme.

6. First, “A” for Active, so that Singaporeans can enjoy a wide range of water-based activities, from canoeing and sailing to dragon-boat racing.

7. Second, ‘B’ for Beautiful, because we want to transform our waterways into beautiful streams, rivers and lakes that enhance our living environment.

8. Third, ‘C’ for Clean, so that whatever we do with our water bodies, they will continue to be kept litter- and pollution-free. 

9. To achieve these goals of the ABC Waters programme, PUB and its consultants have drawn up a master-plan for the long-term development of the water catchments.  We will proceed in a sustainable manner, and strike the right balance between maximising the land for development and protecting it for recreational use.   As far as possible, existing natural, historical and cultural resources will be preserved, and integrated with new developments.  PUB has already identified 150 locations where projects can be implemented in phases over the next 10 to 15 years.  These projects will be implemented through a combination of public and private sector expertise and financing.  Let me highlight two examples. 

10. The Kallang River’s upstream stretches flow through Bishan Park, which is a popular recreation area for the large residential areas nearby, including Ang Mo Kio and Bishan.  Native plant species will be re-introduced along the river, as an extension of the nearby nature reserves. New features like an integrated river playground and water play areas will be introduced to encourage more interaction with the water. The existing ponds in the Park can also be converted into wetland ponds that help to improve the quality of storm-water entering the Kallang River. All this will enhance residents’ experience of Bishan Park and Kallang River as a venue for both active recreation, as well as more quiet uses such as meditation and simple enjoyment of the surroundings.

11. Another example is Sungei Punggol.  Its peaceful suburban atmosphere will be enhanced with a floating island.  This island will be planted with mangroves and wetlands which can help purify the waters, and act as a habitat for birds and fishes.  The island will also be connected to both river banks, forming a convenient link for residents to access amenities on both sides of the banks and enjoy the surroundings.  In time to come, Sungei Punggol can become a sanctuary to explore nature as well as to carry out water activities like canoeing and kayaking.


12. These are just some of the projects that we look forward to carrying out in the near future.  While the Government will lead the way, the success of the ABC Waters programme will depend very much on the active participation of all Singaporeans.

13. In particular, all of us must do our part to keep our waterways clean.   Today, PUB collects and removes about 15 tonnes of litter daily from float-booms that are installed at various river mouths.  Litter from as far as Ang Mo Kio can end up in the Marina Bay. If one area becomes polluted with rubbish and waste, it can easily contaminate the water in other parts of the island.  Be it in the city where we are converting the Marina Bay into a freshwater lake, or in the residential heartlands where we are bringing waterfront living to HDB neighbourhoods, we must make an extra effort to keep our waters clean.  Then we can all enjoy beautiful waterfront settings in the city and in our homes. 

14. Under PUB’s “Our Waters” programme, around 40 schools and organisations have adopted various water bodies in Singapore.   These groups have been carrying out activities such as forming patrol groups to ensure the cleanliness and safety of their “adopted” waterways, organising river clean-ups and other community activities.  I encourage more like-minded people to join us in taking care of our precious water resources.

15. Besides helping to keep our waterways clean and pollution-free, Singaporeans can also participate in the ABC Waters programme by contributing your views and feedback.  Whether you are an individual, or part of a community group or NGO, we want to hear your ideas on how we can improve the plans and make the best use of our water bodies. 

16. I also urge private property developers to participate in the ABC Waters programme by integrating our waterways into your developments and designs.  To facilitate this, PUB has set up a “green lane” approval channel to expedite proposals that incorporate the ABC elements into their developments.  I hope that developers will come up with “out-of-the-box” concepts that feature surrounding waterscapes in your designs.  In doing so, you will not only enhance the value of your developments, but also play a part in creating Singapore’s future living environment.

17. Singapore has come a long way in cleaning up and transforming our environment.  In our early years of nation building, we used to have our fair share of problems, including dirty waterways, unchecked waste dumping, and from time to time outbreaks of vector-borne diseases.  However, through the commitment and hard work of all Singaporeans, we succeeded in keeping Singapore clean and green, and achieved international recognition as a garden city. 

18. We are now ready to embark on our next phase to transform Singapore into a city of gardens and water.  Through the ABC Waters Programme, we will build a first-class living environment for ourselves and our children.  We will ensure that we have something special and unique in Singapore, which all of us can enjoy and be proud of.  It gives me great pleasure now to declare the ABC Waters Exhibition open.