Celebrating The Marina Barrage, 10 Years On

Three officers who have been with the Marina Barrage since Day 1 give us a peek into their professional lives and share their love for the iconic landmark.
(Left to right) PUB staff Mohamed Haja Nazimudeen, Jessy Chew and Muhamad Fazly Ismail have worked at the Marina Barrage for 10 years.

From afar, amid the Singapore skyline of skyscrapers, the sight of kites dotting the sky marks the Marina Barrage. The iconic structure’s green roof is a prime spot for picnics and carnivals, and where visitors go to admire the National Day fireworks and aerial displays.

Besides the recreational functions of the Marina Barrage, it has two other critical roles: to keep floods out of low-lying city areas and to supply water via the Marina Reservoir.

For 10 years, a team of officers from national water agency PUB has kept the Marina Barrage up and running round the clock. Its 45 employees are split into teams to handle maintenance, operations, water quality monitoring, reservoir water activities and events by external parties.

A well-oiled machine

Senior assistant engineer Muhamad Fazly Ismail poses on a boat that PUB’s Marina Barrage staff use to patrol the reservoir and collect water samples.

The opening of the Marina Barrage in 2008 created Singapore’s 15th reservoir. A barrage built across the 350m-wide Marina Channel keeps seawater out.

Senior assistant engineer Muhamad Fazly Ismail takes care of reservoir maintenance. His daily routine involves checking the reservoir’s water quality. Using a handheld water quality meter, he measures the water temperature, pH values and salinity levels at various points. He and his team also act as reservoir guardians – they go on patrols to supervise contractors clearing flotsam and look out for people who flout the rules of reservoir activities.

Protecting Singapore’s water supply is a job Fazly takes seriously. “Reservoirs are vast spaces. When we do surveillance, we need eagle eyes and quick action,” he says. These supplement the online sensors that keep track of water quality parameters 24/7. Fazly also checks that the pipelines carrying raw water have no leakage and are not damaged by any nearby construction works.

His duties ensure that the raw water from the Marina catchment is a viable source of water supply for Singapore, alongside imported water, NEWater and desalinated water.

To Fazly, the Marina Barrage is also the site of several memorable experiences. During the 2015 Southeast Asian Games, he witnessed the Singapore canoeing team win seven gold and five silver medals.

And having spent almost every morning of the past 10 years with the Reservoir Operations team at the Marina Barrage, “the people here are like family to me,” says Fazly, who won the PUB Model Worker award in 2016. “I am proud to be part of Singapore’s history and future.”

Like clockwork

Senior assistant engineer Mohamed Haja Nazimudeen takes pride in making improvements in the Marina Barrage pump room.

During heavy downpours, the Marina Barrage’s crest gates and drainage pumps release excess water from the reservoir into the sea. This prevents flooding in low-lying city areas such as Chinatown, Jalan Besar and Geylang.

As a senior assistant engineer, Mohamed Haja Nazimudeen (who goes by the nickname Deen), oversees the barrage gate and drainage pump maintenance so that the Marina Barrage can fulfill its flood-control function. Since 2008, he has also refined operational equipment such as the venue’s drainage pumps, crest gates and engine generators.

“It has been an amazing learning journey for me,” says Deen, who had a hand in shaping the Marina Barrage’s flood control capabilities into the efficient system it is today.

Singapore’s weather keeps his role exciting. When there’s a heavy downpour, Deen’s team springs into action, even if it’s in the middle of the night, to ensure that all the equipment function well.

During maintenance work, the power supply to areas such as the Sustainable Singapore Gallery and a seafood restaurant has to be shut off for safety. To avoid disrupting their operational hours, maintenance is frequently scheduled past midnight. Standby generators provide power while the work is carried out – they also keep the restaurant’s freezers running, Deen explains.

After 10 years of caring for the barrage and reservoir, both Fazly and Deen see Marina Barrage as more than just a place of work – they call it their second home. Deen even held his wedding reception near the water playground in 2014.

Heart and soul

Senior manager Jessy Chew on the rooftop where families and friends have picnics, fly kites and admire fireworks.

The Marina Barrage is often crowded with visitors, but few people may realise that the roof is an excellent spot to watch the sunrise and sunset. That’s an open secret from senior manager Jessy Chew, who handles events that promote the Marina Barrage.

Events at the Marina Barrage are aimed at educating the public on water resilience and sustainability. Besides interactive games and quizzes via social media, the message of sustainability is also made fun through events such as EarthFest and Swapaholic, as part of the Marina Barrage’s 10th Anniversary celebrations.

For events such as races and marathons, Jessy works closely with the organisers to ensure safety for participants and provide a seamless experience for other visitors. This includes installing signage to give directions and information so that both event participants and visitors can enjoy the space safely.

Jessy, who also calls the Marina Barrage her second home, sees it as a place to live out her passion. A true “people’s person”, she enjoys the interactions she has with visitors and it gives her immense satisfaction when her “101% customer service” gets big smiles from them.

Jessy also shares the joy of the people who have commemorated their special occasions at the Marina Barrage. She has witnessed countless marriage proposals, wedding shoots, and birthday celebrations. Even a regular outing of family and friends brings warmth to the place. “Every day is a memorable experience for me. It is a place filled with love,” she says.

The Marina Barrage 10th anniversary finale will be held on October 26-28. There will be music performances, food vendors and craft booths in a “Mini Artbox” carnival. You can take a boat tour around the reservoir and catch a spectacular display of fireworks.

    Oct 26, 2018
    Chia Soong Ming
    Kevin Yang
    Yip Siew Fei
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