Third World Centre for Water Management

Communications

Clean up of the Singapore River: before and after

Yugal Kishore Joshi, Cecilia Tortajada and Asit K. Biswas

Global-is-Asian | Issue 14 | April-June, 2012

For more than a century after the British settled in Singapore in 1819, Singapore River and its banks were the focal point of all global and regional trade passing the island. Trade was actually the basic reason for the British colonisation of the island, and the river was the physical centre of the town as great bulk of goods traded in the settlement was handed in its banks, resulting into a flurry of economic but also social activities.

With time, flourishing trade brought not only wealth but also problems with respect to water pollution. As navigation increased, commercial activities concentrated along the banks of the river attracted more population, squatter colonies, hawkers and backyard industries. Pollution became a major problem very soon, as garbage, sewage and industrial waste were dumped into the river.

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