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Channel NewsAsia 4 Sep 05
PUB hopes to get public participation in preservation of reservoirs
By Johnson Choo, Channel NewsAsia

Channel NewsAsia 3 Sep 05
Lessons from Boston's Charles River for PUB
By Johnson Choo, Channel NewsAsia

BOSTON : Singapore's national water agency, PUB, recently unveiled a new programme to get Singaporeans excited about its waterways, reservoirs and reservoir parks. Called "Out Waters," the initiative aims to develop greater ownership over these resources. On a PUB study-trip to Boston, USA, recently, Channel NewsAsia learns how a similar initiative is being carried out at the Charles River Basin.

Harvard University's Newell Boathouse, affectionately known as "The Red Top", is home to more than a century of Harvard rowers. They share the Charles River with a multitude of other users, from casual boaters to motorised "Duck" tours.

The city had spent some US$80 million and 15 years to develop and clean up the river, which now has over 20 parks along its banks.

Multi-level parklands run along the Charles River, and for the higher banks, they have safety railings. But on the other parts, gentle slopes run along the river banks. This, the park authority says, gives people easier access to the river.

The basin was transformed from salt-water mud flats about a century ago, when a dam was erected at the river mouth leading into Boston Harbour. Now the fresh-water river plays host to more than a hundred activities a year, including the annual 4th of July celebration, which draws up to half a million people to its riverbanks.

Despite the multitude of activities held, there are relatively few accidents and users of the river have no problems getting along. Said Charles Zechel, executive director of Community Boating, "It's really just a matter of trying to teach people common courtesy, and sometimes that's just the lesson learnt for both adults and children. Sometimes when boats bump into each other, it doesn't matter."

Dr Brendan Harley, a consultant who has worked on both the Charles River Basin and Singapore's Marina Barrage project, says the community has to learn from an early age to deal with the water, and there should be minimum legislation to protect people from minor risks.

Said Dr Harley, "In an area like the Charles or the Marina Reservoir, that might involve high-speed powerboats, for example, which do pose a risk to unprotected swimmers or people in small boats, you may need some regulations to keep those separated."

Boston gets its relatively pure water supply from a place about 100 miles, or 160 kilometres west of the city. As such, there are no plans to tap the Charles River as source of water. - CNA /ct

Channel NewsAsia 4 Sep 05
PUB hopes to get public participation in preservation of reservoirs
By Johnson Choo, Channel NewsAsia

As it starts opening up reservoirs for water activities, the PUB hopes to create a conducive environment for public enjoyment while preserving the water quality. And it wants to involve the people and both the private and public sectors.

So in a recent study trip to the US, the PUB team visited Hagg Lake in Oregon to see how its community-driven programme has helped protect and preserve the water body. The Henry Hagg Lake was created in the 1970s along with a recreational park that surrounds the water body.

In the peak of summer, up to 1,200 boats would be sailing in the lake but the authorities aren't concerned about the water quality. Chris Wayland, Parks Supervisor, Washington County, Oregon, said: "The impact has been very nominal, and is shown not to be a significant threat to water quality."

The lake is also popular with anglers and to make fishing more sustainable, the local fishing club had even created what it calls "fish hotels". Don Davis, Vice President, Oregon Bass and Panfish Club, said: "It can be something as simple as a big rock. We use Christmas trees after Christmas. Small fish have places to hide from big fish, so they don't get eaten up. And then on the other end, we create places for big fish to ambush small fish, so that they can have a meal."

Keeping the park clean is the job of some 80,000 civic-minded Oregonians, who volunteer yearly on a range of environmental projects. This is part of the state's 'partnership' programme that puts the well-being of Hagg Lake in the hands of the people. Erin Peters, SOLV, Watershed Programmes, said: "There's a responsibility for all of us, because we live in such a beautiful place, to give something back to that place. Whether it's coming out and doing a clean up, or helping to build a trail, or moving invasive vegetation, there's something that we can all do to make this a better place, and to give back to our community."

The authorities are currently conducting an environmental study into raising the height of the dam by some 12 metres. If approved, it will increase the storage capacity of the lake. At the same time, more areas will come under water, and the existing facilities will have to move to higher ground. - CNA

Related articles on Singapore: water issues and Recreation in our wild places
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