Nature and tranquility in Pasir Ris

Nature and tranquility in Pasir Ris
A lucky angler at Pasir Ris Town Park’s seawater fishing pond, which plays host to fishing competitions as well, on 6 May 2015.

Those who call Pasir Ris home say it is the relative seclusion and serenity of their coastal town that they cherish above anything else.

Some upgrades, including the addition of more foliage and sheltered spots along two rivers running through the neighbourhood, have been welcomed.

But other plans to build and expand, while supported by businesses which lament quiet times, are unpopular among some who worry that the tranquillity of the park will be disturbed.

A 15 sq km green lung in the east bound by sand and sea, Pasir Ris - which means "white sand" in Malay - has a laid-back feel.

With entertainment spaces Downtown East and Costa Sands Resort, it draws holidaymakers from across Singapore to its leisure and entertainment amenities.

The neighbourhood, made up mainly of HDB blocks, is also home to many parks and water bodies, including beach-facing Pasir Ris Park, Pasir Ris Town Park, and the nature area next to Sungei Tampines river and Lorong Halus Wetland.

As of last year, the latest data available, more than 130,000 people were living there, many of whom had moved into new flats in the housing estate in the 1990s.

Pasir Ris Park, one of Singapore's largest, is popular with families who enjoy barbecues and camping. Apart from the beach, it features a carefully preserved 6ha mangrove forest as well as a bird-watching tower where visitors can spot anything from a native oriental pied hornbill to a heron picking its way through the shallows.

And at Pasir Ris Town Park, a stroll is accompanied by the occasional bird call and a briny smell wafting from the park's seawater fishing pond. From 7am to 9am each day, the park is a venue for older women practising taiji and residents strolling through on their way to the adjacent MRT station.

By the fish pond are two bistro-bars and a halal eatery that are empty in the day, but popular at night.

The pond and its restaurant businesses were opened by a new tenant, D'Best Fishing, in August last year, taking the place of hawker stalls.

Neighbourhood mall White Sands and Pasir Ris Elias Community Club are in the midst of upgrading works.

Changes were also made to the two rivers running alongside Tampines Expressway and Pasir Ris Drive 3, as part of national water agency PUB's latest Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters project.

Sungei Tampines, which runs through Pasir Ris Town Park, was made prettier with more foliage and sheltered benches along its banks.

Sungei Api Api, near Elias Mall, is lined with mangrove trees, which have been kept intact. Wider footpaths and sheltered lookout decks were added, along with short descriptions of flora and fauna that can be found along the river.

Soil and rocks such as porous lava stone were also placed along the two waterways to remove sediment and nutrients from the water naturally.

Ms Grace Tan, 46, walks her dog along Sungei Tampines twice each day. The real-estate division director lives in one of the blocks overlooking the river.

"The new greenery and amenities beautify the place. Now that the river is cleaner, we can actually see otters now and then," she said.

Mr Peter Gossler, 54, an avid cyclist who lives in a flat by Sungei Api Api, said he likes the changes to the riverfront.

"In the process, they had to cut a chunk of trees down but it is much cleaner now and we have sheltered sitting areas by the river," he said.

The businessman cycles by the river every morning and enjoys a 10-minute stroll down to the beach in his free time.

But some have bristled at plans to build a new hawker centre within the park, the latest in a series of objections the vocal residents have had about developments that threaten their prized green space.

In 2012, for instance, residents of Pasir Ris Heights started a petition to save a wooded area in their backyard - earmarked for development into an international school and condominiums.

The densely forested area, about the size of two football fields, was home to several endangered bird species, including the Changeable Hawk Eagle.

After a 10-month tussle with the residents, the Ministry of National Development went ahead with its plans.

Housewife Tricia-Ann Kee, 41, said she likes the new riverfront but is not keen on the planned hawker centre.

"It think it would make more sense to have the hawker centre at the empty area next to the MRT because placing it in the park (would make it) out of place."

Others, however, feel a hawker centre is long overdue.

Engineer Raam Vanka, 60, said he heard news of the hawker centre two years ago and was disappointed that it did not materialise.

"Our population has grown in recent years so, naturally, our amenities need to grow," he said.

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