Saturday 9 November 2013

Upgrades for ‘overwhelmed’ drainage system to be stepped up

By Woo Sian Boon, TODAY, 8 Nov 2013

To further bolster the island’s defences against flash floods, the PUB will bring forward the commencement of work on 15 new drainage improvement projects to within the next 12 months.

The national water agency will also be stepping up works on 170 ongoing projects around Singapore to improve drainage capacity, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan wrote on his Facebook page yesterday.

He noted that the intense rainfall Singapore has been experiencing recently “has overwhelmed the local drainage systems”, especially in low-lying areas.

“We know where all these areas are, and PUB has been working hard on plans to improve their drainage capacity,” Dr Balakrishnan wrote. “I have asked PUB to expedite the ongoing work on 170 projects and to commence work on 36 new projects within 12 months.”

Responding to TODAY’s queries, the PUB said work on the 36 projects had been originally scheduled to start in the next two years. “Of the 36 projects, 15 were scheduled to start in 2015. PUB will be accelerating these projects to commence in 2014,” said a PUB spokesperson.

Giving an update on the immediate measures to reduce flood risk at the junction of New Upper Changi Road and Chai Chee Road, Dr Balakrishnan said work to raise the depressed section of Chai Chee Road will start this weekend.

The junction was flooded four times in the past 10 days, often causing traffic to come to a standstill for about 20 minutes before the waters could be drained away. Two pumps to divert water from the area have already been installed to alleviate the situation. The PUB will also bring forward its scheduled drainage project for Chai Chee Road to early next year, instead of the middle of next year.

Dr Balakrishnan said: “As wetter weather sets in with the year-end monsoon, PUB has also stepped up checks on construction sites, drain maintenance, and its staff and contractors are on standby 24/7.”

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) has predicted there could be up to 20 per cent more rain than usual for the north-east monsoon season, which is expected to last from the middle of this month till March.

To strengthen overall flood resilience, the PUB has also been widening and deepening major canals, such as the Alexandra and Rochor Canals.

While Dr Balakrishnan noted that some projects will be completed by next year, he reiterated that “others will take longer”. But interim measures, “especially focused on ensuring that our roads remain passable despite heavy storms”, will be implemented, he said.

“These islandwide accelerated projects will cause some inevitable inconvenience. I hope Singaporeans will understand the need to do so and support PUB’s efforts to future-proof our drainage system.”

He also called on members of the public to “exercise caution and look out for one another” when flash floods occur, while also keeping themselves updated by checking the PUB’s social media feeds.

Dr Balakrishnan said: “We are committed to doing our best to resolve this long-term problem. We have to, because climate change will make things even worse in the future, and we have to get ahead of the wave.”

To keep track of flash floods, the public can download the PUB’s MyWaters app on their smartphones or subscribe to its SMS services. The high-water-level SMS alert will notify users of water levels in canals or drains at designated locations, while subscribers to the heavy rain warning service will receive SMS alerts from the MSS when heavy rain is expected.

As of last month, there were about 6,000 subscribers for the MyWaters app and 5,300 for the water-level SMS service, said the PUB.

Drivers can also tune in to radio traffic-watch broadcasts or look at electronic signs on roads for flood updates.


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