Saturday, 27 April 2013

Sketchwalk to Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park

View of Bishan Park from Public Shelter
 Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park
At 62 hectares, Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park, with its ponds and bridges, colourful shrubs and lush greenery, is one of the largest and most popular parks in Singapore. Divided by Marymount Road into two plots, Pond Gardens (formerly Bishan Park 1) and River Plains (formerly Bishan Park 2), the park caters to park users of all ages. Some interesting features include three exciting playgrounds, a community garden, a vantage point on a hill that gives one a landmark view of the park, and a Riverside Gallery.

One of the highlights of the park is the stretch of Kallang River that used to run in a concrete canal but is now a naturalised, meandering river teeming with life. The result of a joint collaboration between NParks and PUB, under the latter's Active, Beautiful and Clean Waters Programme; this river brings park users closer to the water to enjoy its beauty and serenity, and to appreciate the flora and fauna that flourish in the park because of the waterway.

It may be of interest to visitors to note that the transformation of the canal into a river involved a series of bioengineering techniques and the use of a combination of natural materials such as vegetation and rocks. Civil engineering techniques were also used to stabilise the slope and control soil erosion.

The water quality in the ponds and river is maintained, without the use of chemicals, by a cleansing biotope located in Pond Gardens. It consists of carefully selected plants which filter out pollutants while absorbing nutrients from the water.

The use of soil bioengineering techniques (a combination of vegetation, natural materials and civil engineering techniques) to stabilize the river banks and prevent erosion was a first for Singapore and is a new reference for soil stabilisation in the tropics, which have otherwise rarely been used or documented. In 2009, a test bed was constructed, testing about 10 different soil bioengineering techniques and a wide variety of tropical plant species along a length of 60 metres at one of the side drains in the park. Seven of these techniques were then selected for use along the main river. These include fascines, rip-rap with cuttings, geotextile wrapped soil-lifts, brush mattresses with fascines, reed rolls, planted gabions, and geotextile with plantings. The test bed was used to refine the selection of appropriate techniques and plants, as well as the most efficient and effective construction methods. Extensive systematic testing was carried out, including measuring the depth and tenacity of root development.

Cleansing biotopes  
Cleansing biotopes offer effective water treatment while maintaining a natural and beautiful environment. They consist of carefully selected plants in a filter medium which helps to cleanse the water by filtering pollutants and absorbing nutrients. Located upstream in the park, the cleansing biotope helps to maintain the water quality of the ponds without the use of chemicals.

Within the park, a new water playground was designed to increase the attractiveness and visitor enjoyment of the park. Water for this playground is supplied by cleansed pond water that has been filtered through the cleansing biotope and has undergone an ultraviolet (UV) treatment to eliminate any harmful biological contaminants without introducing any chemicals into the water.

Park features
Three new playgrounds were constructed for children to enjoy. New bridges, stepping stones in the water and a riverside gallery were also built to encourage increased interaction with water. Existing features such as the foot reflexology feature, community garden, dog run and fitness areas were refurbished to update the overall look of the park.

No wildlife was introduced to the park but the introduction of the naturalised river into the park has seen the park’s biodiversity increase by 30%. Singapore lies within the East Asian – Australasian Flyway so the park can expect to receive some special migratory bird visitors. A few surprise visitors have already been spotted including Zanzibar Red Bishop, a native to Africa, the Spotted Wood Owl, native to the jungle forest in Indonesia, Long-tailed Parakeet, native in the Andaman islands and the Orange-cheeked Waxbill, native to western and central Africa. Birds (such as the Purple Heron, Scaly-breasted Munia and the White-breasted Waterhen) that are seldom seen in a high-dense urban neighbourhood have also been spotted roosting among the new vegetation. The Malay Archipelago is one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hotspots, second only to the Amazon, and the tropical rainforest climate is home to an abundance of lush vegetation.

The restoration of the river has created a huge variety of micro-habitats which not only increase biodiversity but the resilience of species within the park, meaning their long term ability to survive is greatly improved.

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