Lorong Halus



Lorong Halus is an area located in the northeastern part of Singapore that surrounds a road of the same name.1 The road has been in existence since the 1930s and was extended in the 1980s and ’90s to connect with the Tampines Expressway (TPE) and Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Park, respectively.2 Over the years, the area has been used for various purposes including a sewage ground, an agricultural area for coconut and rubber plantations as well as animal farms, a rubbish dump, and a site for charcoal traders.3 Today, the area is mainly associated with Lorong Halus Wetland, which is situated on the eastern bank of Serangoon River.4

Early history
The Malay terms lorong and halus translate to “alley” or “narrow street” and “fine in texture, delicate, miniature”, respectively.5


Lorong Halus was featured in a 1934 government survey map as a straight road heading northeast.6 By 1975, it had converged with Lorong Baling and Tampines Road. The road bisected Jalan Teban, where Yuh Cheng School, a Chinese-medium, government-aided school, used to be located until 1978 when it closed down.7 Lorong Baling and Jalan Teban have since been expunged.8

In 1937, the municipality invited tenders for the construction of the Municipal Sludge Disposal Works, which was located along a tributary of the Serangoon River known as Sungei Blukar and where Lorong Halus is today.9 This sewage ground facility was reflected in government maps dating from 1953 to 1985. In the vicinity of the facility were villages such as Kampong Sungei Blukar and Kampong Beremban as well as the Bukit Sembawang residential estate.10

Cultivation
Plantations
In 1970, Lorong Halus was predominantly an agricultural area dotted with rural villages, ponds as well as coconut and rubber plantations.11

Farms
The ponds reared seafood such as prawns in the 1970s, but by the ’80s, three fisheries in the area were breeding tropical fishes like the ramirezi and Japanese koi.12 By the mid-’90s, there were 11 floating farms located off the Pasir Ris coastline near Lorong Halus. These farms reared fish such as groupers, seabasses and snappers as well as crabs and lobsters.13 During the ’90s, the Primary Production Department called for tenders for ornamental-fish and aquatic-plant farms to be established at Pasir Ris Farmway and Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Park. These sites were located adjacent to Lorong Halus.14 The Lorong Halus jetty and waste collection centre, built exclusively for the fish farmers’ usage, opened in 2014.15

In the 1950s, cow and goat farms began sprouting up at Lorong Halus. From the mid-’80s onwards, these farms had to downsize or move out of the area to allow for the widening of Tampines Road.16

Pet farms began moving into Lorong Halus in the mid-1990s. Ericsson Pet Farm and Le Doggy Specialist, both sited at Pasir Ris Farmway 2, sold dogs and offered boarding canals, catteries plus grooming services.17 In 1995, local actress Zoe Tay opened a pet shop called Zoe’s Pet Gallery along the same street.18 By 2000, there were four Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA)-licensed dog farms at Lorong Halus offering pet boarding services.19

Lorong Halus Dumping Ground

Located on the bank of Serangoon River at the former site of the Municipal Sludge Disposal Works, the 234-hectare landfill opened in 1970.20 Also known as the Serangoon Sewage or the Tampines/Lorong Halus Refuse Tipping/Dumping Ground, it was then one of two sanitary landfills in Singapore. One disposal method at these landfills involved spreading the refuse along the ground, then compacting the garbage by bulldozer, and finally covering it up with a layer of earth before further compaction.21 In addition, the site, which also housed Singapore’s last night-soil disposal station, practised controlled tipping whereby waste was buried in a pit with soil.22

By 1982, Lorong Halus was storing almost half of Singapore’s rubbish output.23 In the late 1990s, around 7 million cu m of excavated earth from the construction of the Mass Rapid Transit North-East Line was deposited at the landfill for land reclamation use.24

The landfill was initially expected to be completely filled up by 1997. However, the lifespan of the landfill was extended as a result of several factors, namely: the building of more incineration plants from the 1970s onwards, which allowed for more refuse to be burnt instead of being buried; improvement and expansion works at the landfill during the mid-’80s; and the building of a 63-hectare dumping ground beside the existing one in 1989.25 In addition, a 10-hectare wood-waste recycling plant was erected on the site in 1997.26

Government planning for alternative, less land-intensive forms of waste disposal had begun from as early as 1974.27 Singapore’s (and Southeast Asia’s) first incinerator plant was constructed at Ulu Pandan in 1978.28 The then Ministry of the Environment also developed the offshore landfill concept, which was announced in 1989 for implementation on the offshore islands, Pulau Semakau and Pulau Seking.29

Plagued by illegal dumping and constant complaints about its foul smells, open fires and pollution of the surrounding natural habitat, Lorong Halus Dumping Ground, which had been completely filled-up, closed on 31 March 1999, one day before the Semakau landfill opened.30

Trade and industry uses
Charcoal trading

As part of the redevelopment of Kampong Arang and the Environment Ministry’s Singapore River/Kallang Basin Clean Rivers project, charcoal dealers operating at Tanjong Rhu were moved to Lorong Halus between 1985 and 1987.31 Access roads, lorry parks and a 4,000-square-metre timber wharf and warehouse complex were built in the mid-1980s at the charcoal and sand/granite landing site off Lorong Halus, which became known as “Charcoal Port”.32 In 1987, there were 15 charcoal traders operating at the port. They were involved in importing charcoal from Thailand and Indonesia for local distribution as well as for re-export to countries like Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong for use in barbecues, smoking of waterpipes and incense burning.33 An average of 4,000 tonnes of charcoal were imported monthly by 1991.34 

In 1989, the police highlighted Lorong Halus Charcoal Port as a landing point that lacked an immigration checkpoint.35 Three years later, two charcoal merchants operating at Lorong Halus were arrested for hiring illegal immigrants.36 That same year, some 400 cartons of illegal cigarettes were seized from a boat docked at the port.37 On 30 September 1992, Singapore’s only charcoal port closed after its tenants, who were originally granted a three-year tenancy, were told to relocate to the Pasir Panjang Terminal.38 

In 2007, however, there were still six charcoal shops there, operating out of temporary warehouses that had been renovated two years earlier.39 The Housing and Development Board gave these dealerships until June 2007 to move out of the area, offering a factory on Defu Lane as an alternative site.40 

Other trades
The so-called charcoal port gave rise to a booming rag-and-bone trade in the late 1980s and ’90s. Karang guni men sold used household items at the port to regional boatmen, most of whom were from Indonesia and Thailand.41

Lorong Halus was also home to a beancurd processing plant in the 1980s.42 By 1987, firewood dealers from Kampong Arang in Tanjong Rhu had moved to the Lorong Halus area.43 During the 1980s, other businesses that operated in the area included a curtain fabric shop, transportation company, awning distributor, canteen and beer shop.44

Tampines Prison

Plans were announced in 1988 to build a 20-hectare, centralised Tampines Drug Rehabilitation Centre at the Lorong Halus Dumping Ground to house some 4,000 inmates.45 By 1996, Tampines Prison, which took in convicts from the demolished Chia Keng Prison, was occupying the site.46

Tampines Expressway

The TPE’s second phase, linking Elias Road to Lorong Halus, opened in 1989, providing Hougang and Tampines motorists quicker access to the eastern part of Singapore.47 While most of the work for the final phase of the TPE, connecting Lorong Halus to the Seletar Expressway, was finished by 1995, its opening was delayed until the completion of a S$39-million road interchange at the Lorong Halus Dumping Ground.48 Special measures were taken to counter the effects of decaying refuse – such as the escape of poisonous gas as well as road sinkage and corrosion – before the eight-kilometre stretch opened in 1996, shortening the travelling time between neighbourhoods in the northern and eastern regions.49 In 2008, from a point near Lorong Halus, the TPE was linked to Marina Bay and the East Coast Parkway through the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway.50

Recreational uses
In 2007, an adventure ground for extreme sports opened in Lorong Halus. Then-Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean had suggested the idea for such a facility.51 That same year, the Motorcycle Safety and Sports Club held two motorcycle racing events at temporary tracks that were 6 to 10 km long, situated in the area.52 Plans for a permanent motocross site were objected to by the Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS) on account of potential noise and pollution problems. NSS had already started conducting nature walks in the area from as early as 1999.53 Lorong Halus, the only known home of the locally endangered little grebe, has also been attracting birdwatchers since the 1960s.54


Lorong Halus Wetland

Announced in 2007, the Lorong Halus Wetland was transformed from the former landfill site as part of the Public Utilities Board’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme and officially opened on 5 March 2011.55 Costing some S$47.7 million, Singapore’s first manmade wetland protects the adjacent Serangoon Reservoir’s water quality by collecting and purifying the water leaching from the dump in shallow earth basins before discharging it into the sewage system.56

The wetland, which is known to support a wide range of biodiversity, was adopted by NSS in 2011 and aircraft engine firm Pratt & Whitney in 2014. Neighbouring secondary schools have also developed a learning trail for the wetland.57 Connected to Punggol Promenade via a pedestrian bridge, Lorong Halus Wetland became linked to three other parks when the 26-kilometre North Eastern Riverine Loop was completed in 2012.58 Plans to expand the loop were announced in 2015.59

Recent developments
Industrial park

One of the recommendations in the 2010 report by the government’s Economic Strategies Committee was to convert the disused landfill at Lorong Halus into an industrial park. Part of the government’s push to promote “live-work-play” enclaves, the development was projected to have integrated commercial, retail and lifestyle features while surrounded by greenery.60

Power station
In 2009, the government announced that the first power station in eastern Singapore would be developed at Lorong Halus to meet growing industrial demand and reduce transmission losses of delivery from the west.61

Drone delivery

In 2015, a drone operated by Singapore Post delivered a postal package from Lorong Halus to Pulau Ubin – the world’s first successful unmanned-aerial-vehicle delivery trial by a postal service provider.62

Plankton bloom
In 2014 and 2015, more than 50 fisheries off Lorong Halus were hit by a plankton bloom that wiped out their entire fish stock.63

Wildlife sightings
Otters and wild boars have been spotted at Lorong Halus. In 2016, curious members of the public who wanted to feed the wild boars created a litter problem in the area as they left behind bags of food for these animals. This prompted the AVA to start culling operations to control the area’s boar population.64



Author
Dan Koh



References
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Further resource
Tay, S. (2011). Grassy haven. Pure, 2nd Qtr., 4–9. (Call no.: RSING 333.910095957 P)




The information in this article is valid as at 30 November 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places

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