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. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, Our Water, Our Future (Singapore. Public Utilities Board, 2016), 24. (Call no. RSING 333.910095957 OUR)
2. “Marina Barrage,” PUB, accessed 8 May 2017.
3. Cham Tao Soon, 50 Years of Engineering in Singapore (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd, 2017), 30 (Call no. RSING 620.0095957 FIF)
4. Waterways Watch Society, “Marina Barrage on Discovery Channel,” Blog post, 2015.
5. PUB, “Marina Barrage.”
6. “The Cleaning Up of Singapore River and Kallang Basin (1977–1987),” PUB, 5, accessed 2 January 2019; Lee Kuan Yew, “The Marina Barrage Commencement Ceremony,” speech, 22 March 2005, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 2005032202)
7. Centre for Liveable Cities and Public Utilities Board, Singapore, Water: From Scarce Resource to National Asset (Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia, 2012), 17. (Call no. RSING 333.91095957 WAT)
8. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, Annual Report 2012/2013 (Singapore: Public Utilities Board, 2013), 13.
9. “Koh Brothers Clinches $226M PUB Contract,” Business Times, 30 November 2004, 28. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “Must-Stops at Marina Barrage,” PUB, accessed 8 May 2017.
11. “A Barrage of Solutions,” Singapore International Water Week (May 2008).
12. Liaw Wy-Cin, “First City Reservoir Opens,” Straits Times, 1 November 2008, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
13. “Nine Most Iconic Places in Singapore,” Straits Times, 3 June 2014. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
14. “Sustainable Singapore Gallery,” PUB, accessed 8 May 2017.
15. “Green Features,” PUB, accessed 8 May 2017.
16. Lee, “Marina Barrage.”
17. Billy Chew, “Action Taken to Keep S’pore River Clean,” Straits Times, 24 November 1998, 32. (From NewspaperSG)
18. “Koh Brothers Clinches $226M PUB Contract.”
19. Lee Hup Kheng and Emilyn Ng, “Turning Marina Bay into a Freshwater Reservoir,” New Paper, 27 March 2005, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Azhar Ghani and Alexis Hooi, “MM’s Vision of City Dam Takes Shape,” Straits Times, 23 March 2005, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
21. “From the Bay to the Sea Over the Barrage,” Straits Times, 17 October 2007, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Tan Yo-Hinn, “S’pore Bay Run Participants will Run on Marina Barrage,” Today, 27 June 2008, 66. (From NewspaperSG)
23. “Accolades,” PUB, accessed 8 May 2017.
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.