Friday, June 18, 2010

Flood Problem Hiding In Plain Sight

The word has been used so often, the Singapore government should patent it. Once again, complacency comes to mind when it was revealed that the cause of the Great Orchard Road flood is an open drain.

Not just any open drain, but a culvert measuring 2.7m by 2.7m. Wide enough to fit an SBS bus. We are told the first heavy downpour carried debris and vegetation into the culvert at the junction of Tanglin and Orchard roads, choking the humongous drain, and sent dirty water gushing up the whole stretch of touristy Orchard Road. From photos shown in the press, an SBS bus was not swept into the culvert. The litter problem in that part of town must be real bad.

The Stamford Canal for the Orchard Road drainage system comprise two canals, a shallow one of 2.2m on the Paterson Road side, and a deeper 3m deep canal on the Scotts Road side. The culvert connects the shallow canal to the deeper one. With all the digging done for the MRT station construction, surely the engineers could have easily built another diversion for the shallow canal. Maybe the PUB guys don't talk much to the LTA guys, or the ENV guys in charge of drainage planning and control.

Industry experts say that insurance claims by businesses affected could exceed $6 million. To fix the problem, PUB announced it will now inspect the Stamford Canal once a month, instead of the current practice of 3 to 6 months. Ms Lee Bee Wah, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC and deputy chairman of the National Development and Environment Government Parliamentary Committees, said dthe flooding was a "timely wake-up call" that something more needs to be done to prevent a similar occurrence. Permanent secretaries in the Environment Ministry specialising in flood control will probably have to cut short their trips to France for pastry cooking lessons.

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