Kallang is bounded by the northeastern boundary of the Central Area, the Central Expressway, the Pan Island Expressway, the proposed Kallang Expressway, Mountbatten Road and the East Coast Parkway. It covers nine subzones and a total area of 920.7 ha.Some of Singapore’s earliest settlers lived in Kallang. They were boat-dwellers whose descendants still reside in the area today.A long-standing landmark in Kallang is the former Kallang Gasworks.3

The Orang Kallang were among the indigenous inhabitants of Singapore. They constituted half of the approximately 1,000 residents in Singapore at the time of Raffles’s landing in January 1819.4 The Orang Kallang were boat-dwellers who lived in the swamps at the mouth of the Kallang River, which was named after the community.When Singapore was ceded to the British in 1824, the Temenggong of Johor relocated the Orang Kallang to Pulai River in Johor.6

In G. D. Coleman’s 1836 Map of the Town and Environs of Singapore, a long stretch of the coast along Kallang was sand and mud, with mangrove marsh and swampland blanketing the Kallang Basin. Coleman’s map also depicts a Bugis village located between the Rochor and Kelang (Kallang) rivers, as well as a road named Jalan Bugis.7 In the early days, Bugis traders unloaded cargoes from their sail boats at the Kallang Basin, where Tanjong Rhu is today.8 By the late 19th century, there were sawmills, oil and rice mills and abattoirs in Kallang and later on, engineering workshops and factories lined the banks of Kallang River.9

Key features
The Kallang River, which is the longest river in Singapore, flows from Peirce Reservoir to the coast at Nicoll Highway.10

One of the longest-standing landmarks in Kallang is the former Kallang Gasworks, with its distinctive appearance and gas odour.11 Situated next to Kallang Basin in Kampong Bugis, the location is ideal for coal to be unloaded from barges, small boats and tongkangs on the Rochor and Kallang Rivers.12 Privately owned by the Singapore Gas Company which was established in 1861, it was the first gasworks in Singapore to provide piped gas for street lights until 1901, when it was taken over by the Municipal Commissioners.13 By 1940, gas became more commonly used for cooking rather than for street lighting.14 When the Public Utilities Board took over the supply of electricity, water and gas to the city in 1963, six new plants were added from 1966 to 1981 to increase the production capacity at Kallang.15 In 1998, Kallang Gasworks was decommissioned after 137 years to make way for urban redevelopment and all piped gas production operations were relocated to a new site and building – Senoko Gasworks, which started operations in July 1997.16

In the early 1930s, extensive filling and reclamation took place in Kallang for the construction of Singapore’s first international airport. Completed in 1937, the Kallang Airport was in operation for some 18 years. It was replaced by the Paya Lebar Airport, which opened in 1955. The former airport building and part of the premises subsequently became the headquarters of the People’s Association.17

In 1936, the Happy World (later renamed Gay World) amusement park opened in the area between Mountbatten and Geylang roads.18 Nicoll Highway, the first shortcut from the East Coast to the city, was completed in 1956. Adjoining the highway is the Merdeka Bridge, which had two lions at both entrances to commemorate Singapore’s struggle for independence.19

Other prominent landmarks in Kallang were the National Stadium (1973–2007)20 and the Singapore Indoor Stadium (1989).21

Under the clean-up programme which took place from 1977 to 1987, pollution from industries and farming at the Kallang Basin was cleared up.22 The Singapore River Concept Plan and the Draft Master Plan for the Urban Waterfronts at Marina Bay and Kallang Basin were drawn up by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1985 and 1989 respectively.23 The clean-up also saw the development of Kallang Riverside Park, where water-skiing has become a popular activity.24

Variant names
“Kallang” could be a corruption of the Malay word kelang (meaning “mill” or “factory”), as there used to be many saw mills and rice mills in the area. It could also mean “a shipbuilding place”.25

Hokkien: ga lang kio, ka-lang kio (both meaning “Kallang bridge”) or hue-sia (“fire stronghold”.26

Cantonese: ka-lang kiu ( “Kallang bridge”) or mui-hai kuk ( “coal vapour office”).27

Tamil: kalang villakukhudu (“Kallang light cage”), referring to a landmark demolished in the late 1990s.28

Vernon Cornelius

1. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Kallang Planning Area: Planning Report 1993 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1993), 4–7. (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
2. C. M. Turnbull, A History of Singapore, 1819–1988 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989), 5. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
3. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 163. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
4. C. M. Turnbull, A History of Modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (Singapore: NUS Press, 2009), 25. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
5. Turnbull, History of Singapore, 1819–1988, 5, 8.
6. J. R. Logan, ed., “Biduanda Kallang of the River Pulai in Johore,” Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia1 (1847): 299. (Call no. RRARE 950.05 JOU; microfilm NL1889)
7. Survey Department, Singapore, Map of the Town and Environs of Singapore, 1836, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. TM000037)
8. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 163; The Bugis Fleet Arrives,” Straits Times, 5 April 1936, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Timothy Auger, A River Transformed: Singapore River and Marina Bay (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2015), 36. (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 AUG)
10. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 499. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
11. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 163.
12. Tan Chung Lee, Warming Lives for Generations: 150 Years of City Gas (Singapore: Straits Times Press, 2011), 16. (Call no. RSING 338.766577 TAN)
13. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, (1985). Piped Gas Supply in Singapore (Singapore: Public Utilities Board, Singapore, 1985), 2. (Call no. RSING 665.77095957 PIP)
14. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, (1985). Piped Gas Supply in Singapore, 2.
15. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, (1985). Piped Gas Supply in Singapore, 3.
16. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, (1985). Piped Gas Supply in Singapore, 49–50.
17. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Kallang Planning Area, 8; Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 205. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
18. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 205.
19. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Kallang Planning Area, 4–8; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 205.
20. Jeffrey Low, “National Stadium to Make Way for Sports Centre,” Straits Times, 16 February 2003, 1; Leonard Lim, “Sports Hub May Now Be Ready Only By 2012,” Straits Times, 17 June 2008, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Tan Ee Sze, “New Indoor Stadium Booked All the Way Up to 1994,” Straits Times, 26 October 1989, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Auger, River Transformed, 70.
23. Auger, River Transformed, 87.
24. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 205.
25. S. Durai Raja-Singam, Malayan Street Names: What They Mean and Whom They Commemorate (Ipoh: The Mercantile Press, 1939), 112. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 RAJ)
26. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 198 (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); H. W. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula,” Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42 (February 1905): 100–01. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
27. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 100–01.
28. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 163.

The information in this article is valid as at 2018 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.


Urban planning
City planning--Singapore
Streets and Places