Older Singaporeans will immediately associate Lorong Halus with garbage, as it was Singapore’s refuse dumping ground from the 1970s till the 1990s. I wonder how many realize however that Lorong Halus was shut in 1999, and that our landfills have since been moved offshore, to an island called Pulau Semakau?
Anyway so Lorong Halus is no longer a dump, and in a twist of irony the city planners have created an eco wetland in its place with the express purpose of cleaning the soil and water in the area. Talk about a transformation.
The Lorong Halus area sits right next to the Serangoon River. In 2011, a dam was constructed across the mouth of the river converting it into a reservoir. The construction of the Serangoon East Dam, also called the Serangoon Tidal Gates as the sluice gates regulate the water level in the reservoir and keep sea water out, created the Serangoon Reservoir. The reservoir is Singapore’s 17th and newest reservoir, and serves as an important urban catchment in collecting rainwater from the surrounding areas.
With the reservoir unfortunately located right next to the old Lorong Halus dump site, large scale measures needed to be taken to prevent leachate – liquids leaching from the ground and potentially containing heavy metals – from contaminating the reservoir waters. A thick impermeable “cut off wall” measuring 6.4km long by 18m high and 80cm thick was built underground along the length of the Serangoon River to contain the leachate. Part of the Lorong Halus landfill nearest the river was then turned into a wetlands preserve so that the leachate could be pumped into the wetlands for treatment.
The leachate is pre-treated in some tanks before it is distributed into reed beds where the plants help to filter and clean the leachate. It is then channeled into the “polishing ponds” where more aquatic plants help to further treat the water, after which the treated water is finally sent into the used water network.
These very laudable organic methods are termed “bioremediation” procedures – using biological elements to treat environmental problems, or more specifically in this case, “phytoremediation” procedures, using plants (‘phyto” refers to “plants”) and their associated micro-organisms to contain or remove contaminants from the soil or groundwater.
And so the Lorong Halus Wetland was born, completed in December 2010, a good 6 months before the opening of the Serangoon Reservoir in mid-2011. The wetlands also form a natural eco habitat attracting birds and other kinds of wildlife, making for a nice community recreation space.
The Lorong Halus Wetland is not only a functioning organic water treatment system and a test bed for new bio-engineering water treatments, but also serves as an education centre and a nature park.
There is a visitor kiosk with information boards explaining the mission and methods of the wetlands. The ponds, reservoir and greenery act as a haven for wildlife attracting plenty of birds and other animals, creating a natural recreational spot for residents. The riverside park is quiet and serene, and a great place for biking, walks or just to get away from city life.
Lorong Halus is a somewhat remote road and area. You’ll either need to drive to the wetlands located at the end of Lorong Halus and Pasir Ris Farmway 3, or else get to it by biking or walking across the Lorong Halus Bridge from the Punggol side across the Serangoon River. Quite a few of the visitors we saw there were bikers who were probably biking the Punggol trail.
Take the Lorong Halus exit off the Tampines Expressway (TPE), and at the end of Lorong Halus and the intersection with Pasir Ris Farmway 3 turn left and you will soon see the main entrance. There are directional signs.
Appears to be open 24 hours.
HOW MUCH TIME
You won’t need more than 30 minutes to take a look around and read up and understand how the wetland functions – unless you’re an engineering type and want to study the system in detail. There really is little else to see or do there, however you can spend more time of course if you want to relax in some peace and quiet, and I suggest you walk over the bridge to explore the Punggol promenade area as well. If you’re a bird watcher then this would be a good spot to spend an afternoon.
- To complement the Serangoon East Dam there is also a Serangoon West Dam, which dams up the connecting Dekar River on the other side of Serangoon or Coney Island.
- Singapore relies on 4 water sources, called the “4 National Taps”:
1. Rainfall, captured in local catchment reservoirs
2. Imported water from Malaysia
3. Recycled water known as “NEWater”
4. Desalinated water
- The country has a critical need to become more self-sufficient in our water supply as our requirements for water are projected to sky-rocket. With limited land area, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) strategy has been to dam major rivers to create reservoirs and collect and store as much of the 2.4m of rainfall we get annually as possible.
- The PUB’s ABC (Active, Beautiful and Clean) Waters Programme was launched in 2006, a strategic initiative to “improve the quality of water and life by harnessing the full potential of our water bodies”. Singapore has a network of over 8,000km of waterways and 17 reservoirs for our water supply. “By integrating the drains, canals and reservoirs with the surrounding environment in a holistic way, the ABC Waters Programme aims to create beautiful and clean streams, rivers, and lakes with postcard-pretty community spaces for all to enjoy” – PUB.
- The visitor kiosk is unmanned. There are toilet facilities however but nothing else.
- PUB (Public Utilities Board) site on Lorong Halus Wetland