(Photo: The Straits Times)

Do you know where the only hot spring in Singapore is located at?

The question of what to do with the Sembawang Hot Spring at Gambas Avenue has been mulled over for decades.

Senior Minister of State for Defence Ong Ye Kung said on Saturday (April 23) that the land where the hot spring is on will be returned to the State.

The area may be turned into a park, as Mr Ong said he hopes a public agency such as the National Parks Board can take over, and maintain it.

Here's more about the only hot spring on mainland Singapore:

Where is it?

The Sembawang Hot Spring is found near the junction of Sembawang Road and Gambas Avenue, along Jalan Ulu Sembawang. A deserted brick house believed to be part of a former bottled drink factory marks the site.

The spring is currently on Sembawang Air Base grounds, but is open to the public from 7am to 7pm.

While it is called a "spring", today, only a small concrete base with standpipes channelling the hot spring is open to the public.

Many bring their own buckets and basins to fill them with spring water from the taps.

(Photo: The Straits Times)

Who discovered it?

It was discovered in 1909 by Chinese merchant Seah Eng Keong, and the village in the area was named Kampong Ayer Panas, which means "hot water village" in Malay.

Mr Seah sent the water for testing in Europe and it was found to resemble water from "mineral hot springs" and to have "valuable medicinal properties", an article from 1909 said.

He bottled the water for sale and branded it "Zombun".

The site was acquired in 1922 by soft drinks maker F & N, which set up a plant nearby to tap the mineral water, and sold it under the brand name Seletaris.

During the Japanese occupation, it became a spa for the Japanese officers, with a number of thermal baths built in the area.

What's in the spring water?

The water is rich in minerals and believed to have curative effects. When The Sunday Times sent the water for testing in 2002, it was found to have substantially more chloride, and three times more sulphide content than tap water. Due to its mineral content, the water is slightly alkaline.

(Photo: TNP)

The spring water is said to cure rheumatism, and heal skin problems such as acne or psoriasis. Doctors said there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims. However, the heat of the water can relax muscles and joints.

Ideas spring forth

Ideas to spruce up the area have sprung up again recently.

Two design students, Mr Lee Wei Sen, 26, and Ms Ng Siew Mun, 23, won a prize in the My Ideas for Public Spaces competition with their idea for the hot spring.

The pair proposed having wooden tubs of various sizes at Sembawang Hot Spring.

"It's a very simple idea that you can collect the wooden barrel, fill it up on your own and soak in it and enjoy yourself," said Mr Lee.

In the Committee of Supply debate in April, when ministries presented their spending plans, Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) suggested that the area around the hot spring can be developed into a national hot springs park.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said that if the area was to be developed, it must retain its rustic characteristics.

(Adapted from The Straits Times)