Punggol is an estate situated in the northeast of Singapore, bordered by the Tampines Expressway, Sungei Punggol, Strait of Johor, Serangoon Harbour and Sungei Serangoon. The Punggol planning area as outlined by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore also includes Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon).1 Under the Punggol 21 scheme, the old village of Punggol was transformed into a waterfront town with housing along the river and coastal area.2 A total of 155 ha of land was reclaimed along the coastline between 1997 and 2001 for development according to the Punggol 21 vision.3
The inhabitants of Kampong Punggol – an old settlement that used to be in Punggol – were predominantly Malays living near Punggol jetty and engaged mainly in fishing. The early Chinese immigrants who took up residence at Punggol carried out poultry and pig farming, as well as plantation work with rubber as the main plantation crop. In the 1970s, in view of redevelopment plans, the government began scaling down the number of poultry and pig farms in Punggol, and their owners were resettled elsewhere. The available land was then tendered out to individuals who could rent it on a short-term basis for non-polluting farming such as growing vegetables. Besides agricultural activities, Punggol was also known for its seafood restaurants as well as boating facilities and services.4
In 1983, the government announced that it would undertake a reclamation project which would see 277 ha of land reclaimed off Punggol over the next three years at a cost of S$136 million. Parts of the reclaimed land would be used for industries, relocation of activities affected by public schemes and intensive pig farming, but these would eventually be supplanted by Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats. As part of the reclamation project, Punggol’s fishing port had to be relocated.5 The project required about 14.4 million cu m of soil, which was obtained from Tampines and the granite quarry on Pulau Ubin, and by dredging the seabed off Punggol.6
Northeastern coastal reclamation
In October 1984, Parliament approved another reclamation scheme at Singapore’s northeastern coast. The areas reclaimed were in the shallow waters off Pasir Ris, Punggol and Jalan Kayu. About 685 ha of land would be reclaimed over a nine-year period from 1985 to 1993. Costing S$874 million, the project was undertaken by the HDB. Approximately 76 million cu me of soil was required for this project, half of which was to be obtained from HDB development sites in Woodlands, Tampines, Pasir Ris, Yishun, Seletar and Zhenghua, while the other half was imported. The bulk of the newly reclaimed land was reserved for public housing, and the remaining portion was set aside for refuse tipping as well as industrial and recreational purposes.7
The reclamation of the northeastern coast was carried out in four phases. By October 1990, Phases 1 to 3 of the project had been completed. Phase 4, which involved the reclamation of the foreshore near Coney Island, was deferred as the northeastern sector land-use concept plan had not been finalised yet.8 In 1996, reclamation work off Coney Island and Punggol started. The reclamation resulted in a river passage 100 m to 200 m wide separating Punggol and Coney Island.9 The reclamation has expanded Punggol’s shoreline in all directions, with the changes being particularly obvious in the eastern and western portions of the planning area. Now, Punggol’s shoreline extends further into the waters between Singapore and Malaysia as well as nearby areas like Sengkang and Seletar.10
Construction on Punggol estate started in 1998 but was delayed. In 2007, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced Punggol 21 Plus, which was an updated version of Punggol 21.11 With the resumption of construction, Punggol Town Hub was set to open in 2021. The hub would house facilities like a hawker centre and regional library.12
A three-year study (1998–2000) on the effects of coastal reclamation at Sungei Punggol on the macrobenthic community (organisms living on, in or near the riverbed, or benthic zone) suggested that the reclamation had a damaging effect and that it changed the community structure of the macrobenthos.13 Besides the obliteration of the swamps on the mainland, environmentalists were also concerned over the gradual loss of flora and fauna on Coney Island. In 1998, Ho Hua Chew, who was heading the conservation committee of the Nature Society (Singapore), expressed concern over the impact of urbanisation on the 30-odd species of birds that inhabited the island.14
Marsita Omar & Alex Ong
1. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore) and Housing and Development Board, Punggol 21: A Waterfront Town of the 21st Century (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1996), 4, 10. (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
2. People’s Action Party (Singapore), Punggol Revisited (Singapore: Oracle Works Pte Ltd, 1996), 20. (Call no. RSING 959.57 PUN-[HIS])
3. Tan Yi Hui, “Punggol Renewal,” Straits Times, 20 December 2009, 51. (From NewspaperSG)
4. People’s Action Party (Singapore), Punggol Revisited, 204–08.
5. “Port to Be Relocated,” Straits Times, 19 March 1987, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Land Reclamation off Punggol,” Straits Times, 5 March 1983, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Parliament of Singapore, Reclamation of Punggol, vol. 44 of Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 19 October 1984, col. 2095 (Call no. RSING 328.5957 SIN); “Reclamation Project Approved,” Straits Times, 20 October, 1984, 15 (From NewspaperSG); Chia Lin Sien, Habibullah Khan and Chou Loke Ming, eds., The Coastal Environmental Profile of Singapore (Manila: International Center for Living Aquatic Resources, 1988), 43. (Call no. RSING 333.917095957 CHI)
8. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, Annual Report 1990/1991 (Singapore: Housing and Development Board, 1991), 48. (Call no. RCLOS 711.4095957 SIN)
9. Parliament of Singapore, Estimates of Expenditure of the Financial Year 1st April 1997 to 31st March, 1998, vol. 67 of Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 28 July 1997, col. 1123. (Call no. RSING 328.5957 SIN)
10. Singapore Land Authority, Singapore Road Map. Punggol, 1985, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP006586]
11. National Library Board, “Punggol 21 Plus Is Announced,” HistorySG, published 2014.
12. Calvin Yang, “Punggol Residents to Get Integrated Hub in 2021,” Straits Times, 7 October 2018.
13. Lin Lu, Beverly P. L. Goh and L. M. Chou, “Effects of Coastal Reclamation on Riverine Macrobenthic Infauna (Sungei Punggol) in Singapore,” Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress and Recovery 9, no. 2 (January 2002): 127–35.
14. Wendy Tan, “A Last Look at Lonely Coney,” Straits Times, 23 June 1998, 29. (From NewspaperSG)
The information in this article is valid as of October 2020 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.