Read the second part here.
“But Mr Khoo stopped short of issuing an apology on behalf of PUB over the unexpected flash flood in Singapore’s iconic shopping belt, which has led to millions of dollars in losses for affected businesses, especially near the junction of Scotts Road / Orchard Road” (PUB: We Were Caught Off-Guard, Mr. Leong Wee Keat).
I read with great surprise and worry the report, “PUB: We Were Caught Off-Guard” (June 19, 2010), by Mr. Leong Wee Keat; surely the changing global climate and Bukit Timah flash floods last year should have provided the necessary impetus for the Public Utilities Board (PUB) to implement additional short-term preventative measures to complement the long-term investments they had proposed. Singaporeans are angry over the tremendous damages and inconvenience caused by the flood; stunned by how a consecutive flash flood could occur within a span of seven months; and fearful because of the degree of uncertainty and insecurity wrought.
The most puzzling aspect of this entire episode is the fact that the PUB and its executive officers have staunchly refused to apologise for the oversight; despite taking responsibility for the multitude of damages sustained by Singaporeans, the agency chose to rehash antiquated arguments about how future plans were in place to improve the drainage systems, the water infrastructure et cetera. Unfortunately, such public-relations assurances – which had already been highlighted by the PUB during the Bukit Timah flash floods – only serve to reinforce its ineffectiveness and inefficiency.
Is the PUB not cognisant of the extensive ramifications brought about by the floods? Millions of dollars have gone down the drain – literally – while commuters were greatly affected as traffic standstills halted journeys as shop-owners desperately seek to salvage their losses. During the Bukit Timah floods, students from the neighbouring schools could not arrive at their institutions in time for their GCE ‘A’ Level Examinations. Even though they were allowed to complete their papers, the preventable event caused unthinkable inconveniences (wading through the waters to get to school) and emotional anxiety (panicking as vehicles could only inch slowly ahead). Singapore’s unique drainage systems and geographical limitations can exponentially multiply the consequences of future negligence; similarly threatening lives and property.
As the PUB continues to work on the ongoing projects for long-term considerations, the agency has the important responsibility to rectify the avoidable factors. Even while the system capacity was sufficient, it was reported that some of the drains were clogged with debris and rubbish that limited water flow. This is a timely wake-up call for PUB to evaluate its supposedly “comprehensive” maintenance system, and tighten regulatory controls in this area. Furthermore, it seems logical to work more closely with the National Environment Agency (NEA) to get updates on meteorological data, so that resources and manpower can be sent to areas with slightly higher water levels or potential torrential downpours.
We cannot afford to render ourselves so vulnerable to flash floods like these. If the appropriate actions are not undertaken hastily, Singaporeans are in for a rough ride.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.