Some communities recycle plastic while others stop at paper. Leave it to Singapore to find a way to recycle drainage maintenance tracks and blighted canals and turn them into healthy waterways, parks and running paths that befit the City of Gardens and Water. Transforming such tracts of land into recreational areas runners can enjoy is the work of the ABC Water Programme, a PUB initiative that continues to take on the most difficult environmental challenges by turning rundown areas into recreational wonderlands. If you’re looking for a place to run that will make you proud of your country and your government, you owe it to yourself to visit each one.
Sungei Ulu Pandan
Do you live in the southwest corner of Singapore and need a place that’s close to home to undertake conditioning runs? Sungei Ulu Pandan could become your favourite. Running along a well-frequented park connector, this was once farmland—until it became a Malay Railway route.
Happily, those train tracks were replaced by a green corridor by Singapore’s ABC Waters Programme intervention in 2013. Over time, floating wetlands, rehabilitated swales and marshland that properly channel water were upgraded so runners can now enjoy an excellent circuit of running paths that border this well-stocked aquatic connector.
This concrete canal is 1.2 km log and stretches between Tanglin Road, Delta Road and the Prince Charles Crescent. Singapore’s ABC Water Programme gradually converted the unsightly trench into a recreational destination, but before runners could sprint across footpaths, both the canal’s infrastructure and drainage design had to be addressed or flooding could have short-circuited plans to create a 200 m swathe of open waterway bordered by a trail.
Landscaping includes gardens and habitat for wildlife but it’s the connected footpaths that draw runners seeking a convenient circuit for workouts and casual jogs in this community. Youth groups and schools have adopted this area, so if you run here, watch out for the kids!
Joggers waited for years to claim the area around the Rochor Canal, so when the announcement that the refurbished 1.1 km stretch of territory was ready for athletes in March 2015, it’s hard to say whether athletes or government officials were happier! The once-polluted canal is now a pedestrian-friendly waterfront boasting a footpath, benches, gardens, overlooks and plazas.
Restoring the Rochor Canal was important because it straddles two historic settlements, Little India and Kampong Glam. It’s worth mentioning the few remaining landmarks runners can spot along the route, like the Malabar Mosque, Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sungei Road Thieves’ Market and the Jalan Kubor cemetery.
Though not as dramatic as some of the other restored and reclaimed trails named in this article, the Geylang River was comparatively healthy when it was picked for restoration. Once the full plan was laid out and work begun, runners found an impressive network of underpasses, bridges and pathways welcoming them to the neighbourhood.
If you run there, be on the lookout for casual strollers and dog walkers who frequent Geylang for their daily constitutionals, but this area still remains one of the best-kept secrets of Singapore’s running community so you will find plenty of space to run. One runner declared the paths lining the Geylang River “fantastic”. See if you don’t agree. By the way, night runners will find this area’s lighting to be a blessing.
Kallang River at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
How do you turn a run down, overgrown concrete canal into a thriving body of water loaded with aquatic life that borders an increasingly popular running trail? By saluting Singapore’s ABC Waters Programme for rehabilitating the Kallang River so the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park project could be completed. From soil bio-engineering to naturalising the river and returning it to its former glory, this laborious project was so intense, arriving at a proper soil decision took a year because planners wanted to ensure no soil erosion in the future.
If you decide to run along the Kallang River and through Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, you’ll share the path with a returning population of Common Bluetail Damselflies and Scarlet Dragonflies attracted to new vegetation, trees and flowers. Want to show your gratitude for a great place to run? Contact the Friends of Kallang River conservation group. They adopted this area and you are invited to join them by donating your money or time.
Sungei Whampoa/St George’s Lane Canal
The 250 m section of Sungei Whampoa that stretches from the Central Expressway to the St. George’s Lane neighborhood was also adopted by the ABC Waters Programme and officials spared no expense by earmarking S$2.2m for the grand makeover. Deteriorated sections of the canal’s concrete walls were replaced and plant-friendly rocks were installed to bolster the infrastructure so it now acts and looks like a naturally flowing stream rather than a neglected ditch.
Residents are delighted. Runners are thrilled to exercise along the 250 m stretch that’s beautifully landscaped with rain gardens, decks and planters. If you encounter Bendemeer Secondary School students when you run here, tip your cap and thank them, because the rain gardens are these kids’ science projects, too.
It’s been almost 30 years since Yishun Pond was constructed beside Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Since then, the hospital’s patients have recovered and left, but the water collection area deteriorated to such an extent, little marine or plant life flourished—until Yishun Pond rose to the top of the ABC Waters Programme’s queue.
A full rejuvenation includes running paths installed adjacent to the pond, so when you slide on your favourite running shoes after arriving at this new paradise, take note of the naturally cleansed water, soft, undulating shoreline, architectural elements and activity area that’s so expansive, runners have to make room for family activities and performances scheduled within this restored park.
Enjoy Singapore Waterways, Parks and Running Paths
These seven ABC Waters Program transformations are a small segment of the work this vital agency has undertaken, thus we invite your opinion with this question: Is there a drainage area and/or a canal in Singapore that also deserves a makeover in the future to transform it into a runner’s paradise?