PUB to prove MM Lee wrong

Andrew Loh

“Some things are beyond (being perfect); it’s an act of God unless you want to lose half the roads and have canals.” This was what Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was reported to have said on 21 July this year, when giving his views on the number of floodings which had occurred in Singapore.

“Whatever we do when we get extraordinary rains like we had recently,” MM Lee said, “no amount of engineering can prevent flooding.”

Well, it seems the Public Utilities Board (PUB) is trying to prove MM Lee wrong. In a press release on 21 October, some four months after the deluge which hit Orchard Road on 16 June, the PUB is undertaking engineering works to “[raise] the low-lying stretch of Orchard Road to better protect it against flash floods.”

“The road raising project will see the low-lying stretch of Orchard Road from Orange Grove Road to Cairnhill Road raised by an average of 300mm,” the PUB’s statement says. “The distance of the stretch to be raised is approximately 1.4km.” The cost is estimated at S$26 million.

“In addition to raising the road, other measures that will be implemented include tie-in of levels with existing interfaces such as retiling of pedestrian malls at crossings, and raising existing bus shelters and affected road facilities such as an ERP gantries, traffic lights, lamp-posts, signs and manholes.”

You can read the details of the plan on the PUB website here.

I commend the PUB for looking into alleviating or preventing future floodings at Orchard Road by taking on rather extensive engineering works to address the Orchard Road flooding.

However, one would recall that Orchard Road was not the only area which was severely flooded whenever heavy rainfall occurred. Upper Bukit Timah, Thomson Road, Braddell Road, Changi Road, Kallang, and Tanjong Katong, among others, also experienced flooding.

The question is thus obvious: what is the PUB going to do about these areas?

“Orchard Road being Singapore’s prime shopping and tourism belt,” said Mr Yap Kheng Guan, Senior Director at PUB, in its press release, “it is important that we give this iconic area an additional protection measure against such flash floods.”

It would be unfortunate if the reason for the PUB’s latest improvement works for Orchard Road is simply because it is “Singapore’s prime shopping and tourism belt”. One hopes that Mr Yap, and the PUB, realizes that all of Singapore should be flood-free, and that the ubiquitous occurrences of the floods in so many other areas in Singapore require looking into as well.

Be that as it may, we look forward to the new measures adequately addressing the concerns of Singaporeans, as far as Orchard Road is concerned – contrary to the fatalistic views of the Minister Mentor.

Read also: Orchard Road flooded.