Change Singapore River into a source of culture

Change Singapore River into a source of culture
Bars, restaurants and nightclubs have replaced former godowns from Boat Quay to Robertson Quay. TODAY file photo

Liew Kai Khiun

Published: 4:02 AM, August 7, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, August 8, 2013
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With the image of the coolie carrying a sack of goods on his shoulders from the bumboats to the godowns, the Singapore River has, for a long time, represented the spirit of enterprise and industry that built modern Singapore.

But with the increase in criminal and anti-social behaviour arising from drink-related problems coming from the bars, restaurants and nightclubs occupying the stretches of former godowns from Boat Quay to Robertson Quay, the river is now associated as a place of excesses.

As seen in the new restrictions on waterfront dining and related activities, the authorities have placed responsibility on commercial operators, who blame the situation on binge drinkers in public and inadequate policing.

Recently, a friend was a victim of the deteriorating situation when she decided to take a pleasant walk, or so she had assumed, from the Esplanade along the river and was deliberately obstructed by two men she described as menacing.

After the clean-up of the Singapore River in 1987, the Government had plans under the Renaissance City project to transform the area under the Civic District with arts and culture.

Although a private-public partnership was established last year to revitalise the area, with the present imbalance of indulgent wining and dining, this stretch looks neither civic nor cultured. It has become one of the more unsafe areas in Singapore.

While lucrative short-term revenue can be derived from the businesses in this prime area, it is timely that the authorities consider the social costs, from cleaning to policing the place.

At the immediate level, there could be more sustained police patrols and installation of closed-circuit television cameras along the public areas.

On the intermediate basis, the authorities could consider more drastic measures, such as alcohol-free zones in the public areas, to reduce social problems by keeping teenage binge drinkers out and drinking customers indoors.

To goad the commercial operators to take greater public responsibility, their taxes should be pegged to the levels of crime and related anti-social behaviour along the Singapore River. It is only fair that the public should not bear the cost, while the bars and clubs rake in profits.

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