The first day of the Lunar New Year, to most Chinese, is the day that is reserved for visiting one’s close relatives. For my family, we gathered at our eldest Aunt’s place for a Lunar New Year lunch at Geylang Bahru. My paternal extended family all once lived there and it was the place where I grew up. I attended the kindergarten nearby and had my primary school education there. Now, it is only my Eldest Aunt who is still living there and being able to visit the place where I grew up brought back a lot of fond memories.
I moved out of Geylang Bahru in 1995 and 14 years have elapsed and the place has changed so much. It underwent upgrading and an extensive face-lift that rendered the entire environment that is almost foreign to me now. The playground with a sandpit where I used to play in has disappeared and the area that used to house it has been turned into a miniature park that was lush with greenery. I saw a lot of golden penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus) and black olive (Terminalia molineti) trees being planted in this park, which were popular landscape trees a few years ago.
I was quite happy to note that during the entire upgrading project, the Kolam Ayer Town Council did not remove some of the trees that were planted in the area. I was happy to see the two yellow flame trees (Peltophorum pterocarpum) that saw me grow up are still growing so healthily between Blocks 55 and 56!
The Yellow Flame trees have grown so tall that their canopies have now overshadowed the windows of the 5th floor unit where I used to live in Block 56! The full length windows that my old apartment used to have allowed much direct sunshine into the grow area where I used to grow edible plants that love the sun so much. I guess that is no longer possible right now since the trees have grown so tall that they block off the much needed sunshine!
The Kallang River located just next to the point apartment blocks had also been transformed into an idyllic riverside park. Both sides of the river have been intensely planted which are totally different from the boring concrete riverbanks seen in the past.
The project that transformed the Kallang River banks is an ABC (Active, Beautiful and Clean) waters programme spearheaded by the Public Utilities Board (PUB). The name given to this new riverside park is the Kolam Ayer ABC Waterfront. The transformation took place in April 2008, which was just barely a year ago!
The Kolam Ayer ABC Waterfront is part of the Park Connectors Network which is under the care of the National Parks Board (NParks). I really enjoyed my time walking along the length of the Kallang River whilst enjoying the trees and lush greenery that was planted along the path. At various intervals, there were extended platforms that allow one to get near the water that was flowing in the river.
Along the path, one can see dense but creative mixed planting which involved numerous specimens of the weeping tea tree (Leptospermum brachyandrum) and black olive (Terminalia molineti) trees together with colonies of lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), aromatic pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius), Calathea lutea, purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) and both the green and variegated forms of the Spanish reed (Arundo donax).
The usage of the purple fountain grass and both the green and variegated forms of the Spanish reed was particularly extensive and are planted on two sides of the walking path. Both plants with their grassy foliage tend to give one the impression of walking in the ‘wilderness’.
Near the middle of the park, one can get to see two interesting gadgets that enable one to interact with water. One is the waterwheel which harness the kinetic energy of flowing water to do work. There is a chair that was placed ahead of the wheel where one can exercise his/her legs to drive the peddles to work against the resistance of moving water.
Near the water wheel are three Archimenes screws which can be used to bring water up onto the river bank for irrigation purposes. There is a steering wheel-like device where one can turn to channel water up from the river. As the name of this device suggests, it is the creation of the famous mathematician, Archimenes. One can use it to enlighten our kids about his immense contribution to mankind.
Further down the path, one will encounter a bridge-like structure that is very much like a boardwalk we encounter at Changi beach, albeit on a smaller scale! From one side of the riverbank, two rigid bridges extend outwards into the river and are connected to a floating deck that will rise and fall according to the tides. Like what its signboard says, it is really an ideal venue for morning exercises and holding functions on a fair and cool day.
As one reaches near the end of the Kolam Ayer ABC Waterfront, he/she will encounter the Kolam Ayer Bridge which one can walk across to enjoy the greenery that is planted on the opposide river bank.
Besides growing plants for greenery and aesthetic purposes, they also offer shelter for the different types of wildlife that live in the riverside environment. Thoughtfully selected plants are grown in some parts via a series of terraces that extend downards the slope of the river bank. As high tide commences, the water level rises, and as it recedes thenafter, some of the waterborne pollutants get filtered away by the soil beds held by the terraces. Cleaner water is then returned back into the river.
Another interesting point to note about the planting is that riparian plants are chosen for planting along the river banks of Kallang River, which is one of the rivers in a network that channels water into the Marina Reservoir. Riparian plants, as mentioned on a signboard, is a group of plants that are able to tolerate periods of flooding that is brought about by the rise and fall of tides.
They are used to prevent erosion of soil from the riverbank, as well as, for the authorities to access the change from of water conditions from one that is brackish to freshwater with the progress of the formation of the Marina Reservoir. The presence of plants along the riverbank also help with the cleansing and filtration of river water that will feed the reservoir. In addition, the use of riparian plants also confer a more naturalistic look to the riverside landscape. One very common plant that was used along the Kolam Ayer ABC Waterfront was the beach morning glory (Ipomoea pes-carprae).