📷: Inche Yusof Ishak (then Yang di-Pertuan Negara), Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Hon Sui Sen, and Dr Phay Seng Whatt surveying the landscape which would become the Jurong Industrial Estate in 1964. Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.
In the early 16th century, Jurong was an intricate network of islands, mangrove swamps and rivers. The waters around Pulau Samulun (today’s Jurong Shipyard) was part of the ancient maritime Silk Road and the islands (reclaimed to become today’s Jurong Island) were used as hideouts by pirates. It was common to see indigenous Orang Laut guide vessels through these difficult waters. The inland part of Jurong was equally forbidding, as it was mainly tangled vegetation and mangroves, with tigers roaming the jungles and crocodiles lurking in the rivers.
In the 1800s, with the influx of Chinese migrants into Singapore, the jungle and mangroves gave way to gambier plantations, and later rubber plantations by the early 1900s. Prawn farming was also popular. In the 1950s, there were some 1,000 acres worth of prawn farms in Singapore, with half of them located in Jurong. The agricultural character continued as farmers turned to growing fruits and vegetables, and rearing livestock until the 1970s, when Jurong transformed into an industrial estate.
That transformation had been planned decades earlier in the 1950s: against the backdrop of a high unemployment rate and a rapidly growing population, Jurong was to be Singapore’s first industrial estate. Few could see rural Jurong’s potential and then-Finance Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee’s plan was called “Goh’s Folly”. Yet, our founding leaders and pioneers persevered against the odds. By 1969, there were 169 factories in Jurong with a workforce of more than 20,000, with another 89 factories in the works.
The next major transformation for Jurong was the completion of Jurong Island in 2009. Conceptualised to operate as an integrated chemical hub, Jurong Island contributed around 3% of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and one-fifth of its output, and employed over 27,000 people in 2020.
Singapore continues to plan forward for our industrial development: the 360-hectare Jurong Lake District (JLD) is set to be a sustainable hub of our future economy, with the largest business district outside our city centre, mixed-use offices and homes, 90% walk-cycle-ride mobility networks, and over 170 hectares of parks and water bodies, most notably Jurong Lake. JLD’s 4 MRT lines (by 2035) includes direct connections to the CBD, Changi Airport and to Jurong Innovation District, where advanced manufacturing is supported by an ecosystem of manufacturers, technology providers, researchers and education institutions with Nanyang Technological University nearby. Jurong provides the pragmatic support for our ideals of a better future.
Today, Jurong’s landmarks include the milestones of Singapore’s journey to nationhood — there is the conserved Jurong Town Hall, the SAFTI Military Institute (where tales of charging up Peng Kang Hill in full battle order are still told), the Singapore Science Centre, Jurong Shipyard and Jurong Port. But some, like the historic Jurong Bird Park (now at Mandai), have made way for better development. Going forward, how will Jurong feature in the narrative of Singapore’s nation-building?
#OurNeighbourhood #Singapore #Jurong #Jurongeast #Jurongwest #placemaking #SGplacemaking
🔗 Read more about Jurong’s heritage here: https://www.roots.gov.sg/places/places-landing/trails/jurong-heritage-trail