by Chew, Valerie
Marina Barrage is a government-commissioned dam built across the mouth of Marina Channel to create Singapore’s 15th reservoir, Marina Reservoir.1 Officially opened on 31 October 2008, it separates the water in Marina Basin from seawater.2 It has been considered an engineering marvel because of its magnitude and complexity,3 and it was the subject of an August 2008 episode of Discovery Channel’s documentary, Man Made Marvels Asia.4 The barrage is dubbed a three-in-one project as it serves three objectives: creating a new source of water supply, acting as a tool for flood control, and providing a new lifestyle attraction.5
By 1987, the government had successfully completed its 10-year drive to clean up Singapore River and Kallang River. It was at that time that then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew mooted the idea of damming up Marina Basin to create a large freshwater lake.6 However, such a project was not feasible then due to technological limitations. Lee raised the idea repeatedly in subsequent years, but it continued to be rejected by then Chairman of the Public Utilities Board, Lee Ek Tieng, on the grounds of inadequate technology.7
The barrage project was finally deemed feasible more than a decade after Lee first suggested it, following significant improvements in the use of membrane technology to treat water for potable use.8 In 2004, the government set the wheels in motion by calling a tender for the project. The contract was awarded to local contractor Koh Brothers, and construction began in early 2005.9
The barrage works using a system comprising gates and pumps. It has nine 30-metre-wide and 5-metre-high steel crest gates spanning the 350-metre-wide Marina Channel, as well as seven drainage pumps capable of displacing a combined total of 280 cu m of water per second. Each gate weighs 70 tonnes and each pump 28 tonnes.10
Under normal conditions, the hydraulically-operated gates will be closed. When there is heavy rain accompanied by low tide, the gates will open to release excess water into the sea. When heavy rain coincides with high tide, the gates will remain closed while the pumps will be activated to pump excess water out to sea.11
With this system, the barrage alleviates flooding in low-lying areas in the city, including Chinatown, Jalan Besar and Geylang. It also keeps the reservoir’s water level constant, thereby making it suitable for water-based activities such as sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and dragon boating.12
Visitors to the barrage can take a scenic walk on Marina Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that sits atop the nine crest gates and connects Marina South to Marina East. At the Marina South end of the bridge is the Visitor Centre, which was designed to resemble a seashell from the top.13 This two-storey building houses the pumping station, some food and beverage outlets, and the Sustainable Singapore Gallery. The gallery showcases Singapore’s efforts towards achieving environmental sustainability and aims to educate the public on major environmental and water issues.14
The roof of the Visitor Centre is completely covered with grass, hence its name, the Green Roof. It serves as a viewing deck as well as a venue for private functions and recreational activities such as picnics. It also acts as an insulation layer, lowering the building’s indoor temperature and thus reducing its air-conditioning requirements. Singapore’s largest solar park, measuring 1,200 sq m, is also located there. The 405-panel solar park converts solar energy into electricity to supplement the barrage’s daytime power requirements.15
1987: Idea of building a barrage across Marina Channel is put forth by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.16
1998: Then Ministry of Environment says the idea is being studied.17
Nov 2004: Tender is awarded to Koh Brothers Building & Civil Engineering Contractor Pte Ltd for S$226 million.18
20 Mar 2005: Documentary featuring Marina Barrage, titled Reservoir in the City, debuts on Channel NewsAsia.19
22 Mar 2005: Ground-breaking ceremony is held, with Lee officially launching the construction of the project.20
1 Mar 2007: A boat hoist to move vessels between the sea and the reservoir begins operations.21
24 Aug 2008: First running event that runs through the barrage, SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Army Half-Marathon 2008, is held.22
31 Oct 2008: The barrage and reservoir are officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
2007: Association of Southeast Asian Nations Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award.
2007: Institution of Engineers Singapore Prestigious Engineering Achievement Award.
2009: American Council of Engineering Companies Engineering Excellence Awards – National Honor Award.
2009: American Academy of Environmental Engineers Superior Achievement Award.
2009: Green Mark Platinum Infrastructure Award, a top award at the BCA Awards organised by the Building and Construction Authority.
1. Singapore. Public Utilities Board. (2016). Our water, our future. Singapore. Public Utilities Board, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 333.910095957 OUR)
2. Public Utilities Board. (2016, November 16). Marina Barrage. Retrieved 2017, May 8 from Public Utilities Board website: https://www.pub.gov.sg/marinabarrage/aboutmarinabarrage
3. Cham, T.S. (Ed.). (2017). 50 years of engineering in Singapore. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd, p. 30 (Call no.: RSING 620.0095957 FIF)
4. Waterways Watch Society. (2015). Marina Barrage on Discovery Channel [Blog post]. Retrieved 2017, May 8 from Waterways Watch Society website: http://www.wws.org.sg/?p=1483
5. Public Utilities Board. (2016, November 16). Marina Barrage. Retrieved 2017, May 8 from Public Utilities Board website: https://www.pub.gov.sg/marinabarrage/aboutmarinabarrage
6. Public Utilities Board. (2004, January 25). The cleaning up of Singapore River and Kallang Basin (1977–1987), p.5. Retrieved 2019, January 2 from National University of Singapore website: http://coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg/articles/PUB%202004-The%20cleaning%20up%20of%20Singapore%20River%20and%20Kallang%20Basin%201977-1987.pdf; Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2005, March 22). Speech by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew at the Marina Barrage commencement ceremony on 22 March 2005, 6.00pm. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
7. Centre for Liveable Cities, & Public Utilities Board. (c2012). Water: From scarce resource to national asset. Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 333.91095957 WAT)
8. Public Utilities Board. (2013). Annual report 2012/2013, p. 13. Retrieved from Public Utilities Board website: https://www.pub.gov.sg/annualreports/annualreport2013.pdf
9. Koh Brothers clinches $226m PUB contract. (2004, November 30). The Business Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Public Utilities Board. Must-stops at Marina Barrage. Retrieved 2017, May 8 from Public Utilities Board website: https://www.pub.gov.sg/marinabarrage/Documents/Bask%20in%20MB_2210.pdf
11. A barrage of solutions. (2008, May). Singapore International Water Week. Retrieved 2019, January 2 from Singapore International Water Week website: http://archive.siww.com.sg/pdf/e_newsletter_07_may.pdf
12. Liaw, W-C. (2008, November 1). First city reservoir opens. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Nine most iconic places in Singapore. (2014, June 3). The Straits Times. Retrieved 2016, October 16 from The Straits Times website: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/travel/nine-most-iconic-places-in-singapore
14. Public Utilities Board. (2017, February 1). Sustainable Singapore Gallery. Retrieved 2017, May 8 from Public Utilities Board website: https://www.pub.gov.sg/marinabarrage/ssg
15. Public Utilities Board. (2017, May 2). Green features. Retrieved 2017, May 8 from Public Utilities Board website: https://www.pub.gov.sg/marinabarrage/aboutmarinabarrage/greenfeatures
16. Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2005, March 22). Speech by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew at the Marina Barrage commencement ceremony on 22 March 2005, 6.00pm. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
17. Chew, B. (1998, November 24). Action taken to keep S’pore River clean. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Koh Brothers clinches $226m PUB contract. (2004, November 30). The Business Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Lee, H. K., & Ng, E. (2005, March 27). Turning Marina Bay into a freshwater reservoir. The New Paper, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Azhar Ghani, & Hooi, A. (2005, March 23). MM’s vision of city dam takes shape. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. From the bay to the sea over the barrage. (2007, October 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Tan, Y.-H. (2008, June 27). S’pore Bay Run participants will run on Marina Barrage. Today, p.66. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 23. Public Utilities Board. (2016, May 16). Accolades. Retrieved 2017, May 8 from Public Utilities Board website: https://www.pub.gov.sg/marinabarrage/aboutmarinabarrage/accolades
The information in this article is valid as at January 2019 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.