Pasir Ris, first referenced in 1852 as a village called Passier Reis, is one of present-day Singapore’s famous recreational spots. From Pasir Ris Park to the chalets, bowling alleys and theme parks of Downtown East, there is almost no shortage of attractions in the area that locals aren’t familiar with. But it was once a low-lying, undeveloped swamp with a smattering of kampongs and villages. Several Malay villages such as Kampong Pasir Ris and Kampong Bahru co-existed with large timber plantations located near Elias Road. However, as the timber industry declined, such plantations began to disappear by the 60s, paving the way for pig farms to flourish around Loyang instead.
Pasir Ris’ northeastern coast was lined by a white, sandy beach. This became a popular spot for picnics and water skiing in the 50s, and up till the 70s, the nearby Pasir Ris Hotel played host to many memorable parties and gatherings. In the late 80s, Pasir Ris New Town, Costa Sands and Aloha Loyang resorts were developed, cementing Pasir Ris as a popular local spot for outings.
The 1960s saw a boom in the quarrying industry. Sand was essential in construction and the need for it arose with the development of public housing estates and other urban redevelopments. At its peak, over 20 sand quarries lay in Tampines and many traditional farmers and fishermen made the switch to become quarry workers or drivers.
The downside to the emergence of these sand quarries was the substantial environmental damage they were causing. Silt and mud runoff polluted the nearby rivers and streams, which led to floods and landslides that destroyed farmland. Even the Tampines skyline was not spared as dust clouds became a constant feature. The government was forced to step in and by 1991, the quarries eventually ceased operations.
While some of the closed quarries were converted into fishing ponds and others turned into popular recreational spots, one former quarry began new life as Bedok Reservoir, one of two reservoirs built under the Sungei Seletar/Bedok Water Scheme. This scheme was designed to meet the increasing demand for fresh water in the east of Singapore.
Bedok Reservoir acted as a collection point for storm water gathered from different catchment areas in Bedok, Tampines and Yan Kit, but soon became a recreational space after an upgrade. Even today, the reservoir and the park surrounding it attract many water-sport and fishing enthusiasts, cyclists, skaters, joggers and picnickers, and plays host to wakeboarding competitions and dragon boat races.