by Marsita Omar
Punggol is 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 (URA) of Singapore also includes Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon).1 Under the Punggol 21 scheme, the old village of Punggol would be 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 the Punggol area – 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 the growing of vegetables. Besides its 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 in which 277 ha of land would be 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. The project required about 14.4 million cu m of soil, which was obtained from Tampines and the granite quarry on Pulau Ubin, as well as by dredging the seabed off Punggol.5
Northeastern coast reclamation
In October 1984, another reclamation scheme at Singapore’s northeastern coast was approved by Parliament. 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.6
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.7 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 on the mainland and Coney Island.8
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 river bed, or benthic zone) suggested that the reclamation had a damaging effect and changes the community structure of the macrobenthos.9 Besides the obliteration of the swamps on the mainland, environmentalists were also concerned over the gradual loss of flora and fauna on Coney Island. For instance, 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.10
Marsita Omar & Alex Ong
1. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Punggol 21: A waterfront town of the 21st century. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, pp. 4, 10. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
2. People’s Action Party Punggol Branch. (1996). Punggol revisited. Singapore: Oracle Works Pte Ltd, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PUN-[HIS])
3. Tan, Y. H. (2009, December 20). Punggol renewal. The Straits Times, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. People’s Action Party Punggol Branch. (1996). Punggol revisited. Singapore: Oracle Works Pte Ltd, pp. 204–208. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 PUN-[HIS])
5. Land reclamation off Punggol. (1983, March 5). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1984, October 19). Reclamation at Punggol (Vol. 44). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 2095. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN); Reclamation project approved. (1984, October 20). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chia, L. S., Chou, L. M., & Khan, H. (Eds.). (1988). The coastal environmental profile of Singapore. Manila: International Center for Living Aquatic Resources, p. 43. (Call no.: RSING 333.917095957 CHI)
7. Housing and Development Board. (1991). Housing & Development Board annual report 1990/1991. Singapore: HDB, p. 48. (Call no.: RCLOS 711.4095957 SIN)
8. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1997, July 28). Estimates of expenditure for the financial year 1st April, 1997 to 31st March, 1998 (Vol. 67). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 1123. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
9. Lu, L., et al. (2002, January). Effects of coastal reclamation on riverine macrobenthic infauna (Sungei Punggol) in Singapore. Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress and Recovery, 9(2), 127–135. doi: 10.1023/A:1014483804331
10. Tan, W. (1998, June 23). A last look at lonely Coney. The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2008 and correct as far as we can 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.