As you walk along the broad riverfront promenade of the Sungai Kedayan Eco-Corridor, you can see Brunei’s 1,000-year-old water village, Kampong Ayer, buzzing ahead of you with the whirr of speed boats zipping across the river.
Look behind you and you see the white marble edifice of Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) Mosque, a towering symbol of the sultanate’s values of Malay Islamic Monarchy.
Wedged in between these two landmarks of Bruneian history is the Sungai Kedayan Eco-Corridor — an urban redevelopment that is part of ambitious plans to revitalise the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB).
The eco-corridor lies at the heart of the BSB Masterplan — a blueprint to transform the capital over the next 20 years into a sustainable city with an economy built on the country’s natural and cultural heritage.
You wouldn’t have thought that this 12-hectare park — complete with manicured lawns, bright tulips and imposing baobab trees — evolved out of a flooding mitigation project.
“Initially, the Department of Drainage and Sewage was tasked with dredging the Sungai Kedayan river bed and building a retaining wall to reduce the impact of flooding,” said Justina Liew Vun Ching, the department’s director.
But over the past three years, the project evolved into a major urban redevelopment, which required land reclamation and the relocation 500 residents from Mukim Sungai Kedayan — a sub-district that was part of the extensive network of villages in Kampong Ayer.
Located in the heart of the capital, the gleaming park is certainly prime real estate — it is flanked by the Brunei River and several landmarks such as the SOAS Mosque and Istana Darussalam.
Justina said the Public Works Department has added several features to beautify the waterfront, including a six-metre wide promenade and cycling lane; a children’s playground; a pedestrian bridge leading to Batu Satu; and many green open spaces for recreational activities.
The park is accessible from nine points by land and two points by water, aiming to improve connectivity around BSB.
When the eco-corridor opens this Sunday, more than 30,000 people are expected to take part in the festivities. Music and cultural performances are planned, as well as a parade of decorated floats and a meet-and-greet with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.
And somewhat peculiarly, a wedding will also be taking place on the river below the pedestrian bridge, as part of the grand opening of the eco-corridor.
When The Scoop toured the park last week, cranes and earth movers were still busy at work, putting the finishing touches on the park and pedestrian bridge leading to Batu Satu.
Asked if all the work would be complete by Sunday, Justina said emphatically that, yes, everything would be done: “This project was actually scheduled for completion in May 2018, but we are seven months ahead of schedule.”
“Bring your families, we encourage everyone to come to the eco-corridor on the 22nd,” she added. “People from four districts will be here to meet His Majesty and the royal family.”
The programme on October 22 will begin at 7.15am and will also be broadcast live on Radio Televisyen Brunei’s channels and Facebook feed. The event is part of month-long celebrations for the Sultan’s Golden Jubilee.