The mystery of the clogged drain is solved - there was no clogged drain.
Depending on how you read it, Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim as good as called PUB chief Khoo Teng Chye a bold-faced liar: "A blocked drain was not the main cause for the floods at Orchard Road a month ago." (ST, 20 July) Lee Kuan Yew may call Singaporeans ignorant, nobody actually believed that a 2.7m by 2.7m drain could be clogged, especially when there was no photographic evidence.
After the Katrina-like devastation of 16 June, PUB's Khoo confidently boasted that the Singapore drainage system capacity is sufficient, having gulped $2 billion to upgrade the drainage infrastructure and to reduce floods. "A huge amount of water, equivalent to 60 Olympic-size pools, carried vegetation and other debris which partially obstructed the culvert across Orchard Road. This resulted in rainwater overflowing into the Stamford Canal and Orchard Road," was Khoo's know-it-all explanation.
In parliament, Yaacob told the house that during the storm, rainwater equivalent to 1 1/2 Olympic pools had flowed into the Orchard Road section of the Stamford Canal. Guess what? That section, we are now told, can handle no more than 1 1/3 Olympic pools equivalent of water a minute. So much for spending "$2 billion to upgrade the drainage infrastructure and to reduce floods". The Accountant-General should take a peek at how much was diverted (pun intended) to civil servant salaries, perks and performance bonuses.
Enough of the good-cop bad-cop wayang already. The truth lies somewhere in what Forum letter writer Patrick Low queried: "To what extent has the loss of 40 percent of our natural forests, from 37.8 sq km to 22.6 sq km between 1960 and 2006, affected the island's ability to absorb torrential downpours?" While we are at it, another simple question from simple folk, "How much of Orchard Road have been concreted over in the past few years?"