Wednesday 30 October 2013

PUB steps up efforts to prepare for monsoon season

By Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia, 28 Oct 2013

National water agency PUB has stepped up efforts to prepare for the upcoming Northeast Monsoon season.

According to the Meteorological Services Singapore (MSS), the rainfall this season is expected to be slightly above average compared to previous years.

Singapore is in the midst of the inter-monsoon season which is why heavy rain warnings and flash floods have been a common sight in various parts of the island over the past few weeks.

This could continue with the approaching Northeast Monsoon season in mid-November.

On average, there are usually 19 rainy days each in November and December, and 15 in January, according to the MSS. The numbers are expected to be slightly higher this season.

To prepare for this monsoon season and minimise the occurrences of flash floods, PUB has intensified inspections on some 100 construction sites around the island to check for drainage obstructions.

It has also replaced about 6,000 scupper holes drain inlets at flood prone areas with an improved design of Drop Inlet Chambers (DICs). Scupper holes are found on the side of the road, next to kerbs.

The modified DICs will have vertical gratings that will provide an additional opening to allow rainwater to be drained from the roads when the main horizontal gratings are partially blocked by leaves or other debris.

PUB has also been distributing flood advisories to about 500 residential units and shop-houses in flood-prone areas.

These monsoon preparations are on top of current measures to minimise and respond quickly to flash floods. These include real-time monitoring of water levels in drains and canals with its water level sensors and CCTVs.

Chew Men Leong, chief executive of PUB, said: "Despite our best efforts, I think it's not possible for us to eliminate flash floods.

"When there are flash floods, what we can do is to ensure that information flows to the public as quickly as possible through our multiple channels, through social media and also through the more traditional media like radio and (TV) broadcast.

"Through that, the community can be alerted to potential flash floods and incidents, and they should, of course, be prepared as much as they can to mitigate its impact. This will include avoiding the area where the flash flood has occurred."

As part of long-term efforts to improve flood protection, PUB will also carry out new drainage improvement projects at 36 locations around Singapore.

The Sungei Pandan Kechil canal is one of the 36 drainages to be identified for improvement works.

In September this year, heavy rain caused the canal to overflow and flood a section of the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE), resulting in the closure of the expressway for about 40 minutes.

The canal will be widened by about four metres and construction is expected to start in the first half of 2015.

In the meantime, PUB said it has enlarged the inlet and outlet points of waste-water pipes at AYE to improve the flow of water.

Tan Nguan Sen, director of catchment and waterways department at PUB, said careful planning is required in order to prevent disruptions.

"A lot of these projects are carried out in very developed areas… where you have major roads, and buildings next to canals. The challenge is how do you carry out the work within these constraints and how do you carry out the necessary road diversions to prevent disruptions to traffic," said Mr Tan.

The new projects include improvements to the Tampines Canal from Upper Serangoon Road to Sungei Serangoon, and the Pioneer sector outlet drain.

These are on top of PUB's ongoing drainage projects at 176 locations, including eight major canals.

Other projects include the Stamford Detention Tank, located near the junction of Tyersall Avenue and Tyersall Road. The undergound detention tank will be completed by 2016.

Upon completion, the detention tank will temporarily hold excess storm water from the drains along Holland Road, which is upstream of the Stamford Canal catchment.

After the rain subsides, the water will be pumped back into the drains for discharge into Marina Reservoir.

The tank has a storage capacity of 38,000 cubic metres or 15 Olympic-sized pools.

Besides the detention tank, PUB will be constructing the Stamford Diversion Canal to divert storm water from the upstream section of the Stamford Canal catchment to the Singapore River.

The work will be carried out in phases, with the first tender to be called in the last quarter of this year, and another in the first quarter of next year.

Work on the entire diversion canal is expected to be completed by 2017.

Also starting next year are drainage upgrading works at Alexandra Canal Subsidiary Drain between Tiong Bahru Road and Havelock Road, and at Siglap Canal between East Coast Expressway (ECP) and the sea.

PUB working to prevent floods in low-lying areas in eastern S'pore
By Leong Wai Kit, Channel NewsAsia, 30 Oct 2013

The authorities are looking into ways to prevent flooding in low-lying areas in eastern Singapore.

On his Facebook page, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who is also the Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC, said that he has asked national water agency PUB to look at areas such as Kembangan, Telok Kurau and Siglap.

His comments came as intense rain on Wednesday caused flooding in eastern Singapore, with reports of Chai Chee being the most affected.

PUB said it will bring forward drainage improvement works at the junction of New Upper Changi Road and Chai Chee Road from the last quarter of next year to mid-2014.

It added that it had installed a pump to transfer some of the water to the downstream drain across New Upper Changi Road. Another pump will be installed by this week.

In addition, the depressed section of Chai Chee Road will be raised and work will start in November.

At about 1pm on Wednesday, the junction of Chai Chee Road and New Upper Changi Road was flooded after a torrential downpour.

Faisal Suptu, a resident in Chai Chee, said: "There were two vehicles stalled and they had to be towed away. The police have to be called in just to direct the traffic."

"There are two contract workers to ensure that the drain covers are open to allow water to quickly flow and allow flood to subside. A few cars stalled and can't move from Chai Chee Road. The rain kept getting heavier, and soon the flood level rose," he added.

This was not the first time the area has been flooded. In April this year, the area was also hit by floods.

"When I was younger, flooding wasn't that often so it seems a novelty… but as an adult, when this happens, it just upsets your work schedule," said Faisal, who has been living in the area for 20 years.

On his Facebook post, Mr Tan said that flooding can get quite bad at the Chai Chee Road and New Upper Changi Road junction when there is intense rain.

He has talked to PUB and the Land Transport Authority to see what else can be done to deal with the issue.

Elsewhere, flood prevention measures have been put in place. At Liat Towers along Orchard Road, barriers have been set up, and over at Bukit Timah, shop owners rely on an informal network to help each other out.

The National Environment Agency said thundery showers in the afternoon are expected in the next three days.

‘More frequent intense storms a warning of worse to come’
By Neo Chai Chin, TODAY, 31 Oct 2013

The focus in recent days may have been on heavy downpours and flash floods, but Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday cast the issue as a longer-term challenge facing the country, saying that the rising frequency of intense storms is a warning sign of worse to come, as sea levels rise due to global warming.

Climate systems that are more brittle could magnify issues of food, water and energy security, he said at a National University of Singapore (NUS) forum last night, citing it as one of his potential nightmares.

Responding to a question from the audience on whether flood-control expenses would shift the focus away from clean water for home and industry use, Dr Balakrishnan said the Government’s investment to improve Singapore’s drainage system is to prepare Singapore for future floods. He noted that a quarter of Singapore’s land is reclaimed and 1.25m above sea level.

In the future, “we’ll be challenged at a far greater level than we are today”, Dr Balakrishnan said. “So that’s how I justify to my colleagues in Cabinet why I need the budget and the approval to proceed to do these drainage projects.”

Dr Balakrishnan’s comments came as several parts of Singapore were hit by flash floods yesterday afternoon. On Monday, the authorities had warned that “slightly above-average rainfall and rainy days” during the north-east monsoon, which is expected to last from the middle of next month till March, could result in flash floods in parts of the island.

At the forum, which was attended by 200 staff, students and alumni, Dr Balakrishnan outlined three major threats to Singapore’s environment. Besides global warming, a major pandemic, such as SARS and transboundary environmental issues like the haze were identified as challenges facing the country.

Asked by participants if a law could be enacted to mandate environmental-impact assessments be done before development, Dr Balakrishnan said this has to be considered carefully.

While an impact assessment will be done before the Government decides whether the future Cross Island MRT line will run below the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, he said: “Personally, I’m opposed to it running through our nature reserve.”

On whether economic indicators would trump environmental issues, the minister said the Government has “never viewed it as the economy versus the environment” and believes clear skies and clean water and streets are good for business.

Asked by a student about the petrochemical industry, which contributes significantly to Singapore’s carbon emissions, he said the authorities take a long-term view and do a “holistic assessment” of what is in the interest of Singaporeans and the country’s role in the global value chain.

The petrochemical industry provides jobs for locals and, as a major refining centre, Singapore can be part of the solution in shaping a less pollutive industry, Dr Balakrishnan said.

Two students asked if Singapore could take part in a “payment for ecosystems services model” where it paid its neighbours not to degrade forests. Dr Balakrishnan said that while the model is philosophically sound, practical challenges exist — such as the potential of being asked to pay ever-elevating amounts.

He also cautioned against the notion that Singapore is wealthy enough to hand out funds “indefinitely”.

“Yes we’ve been successful. Yes, we’ve the responsibility to be a good citizen of the world … But never get this inflated idea that we are rich and that we can change the world unilaterally.

“I’m afraid we are not in that position,” he said.

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