By Terry Xu
Yesterday morning’s heavy storm brought more than 100 mm of rain to various parts of Singapore. Areas affected included the National University of Singapore and the Sungai Ulu Pandan and Sungai Pandan Kechil reservior banks, both of which overflowed. The flood created a major inconvenience for those going to work and to school.
Minister of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said on his Facebook page that the drainage improvement work at Commonwealth Avenue will be completed by June 2015. He also said that to resolve the flooding at the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE), which had to be shut down during yesterday’s flood, will require a major project to expand Sungai Pandan Kechil. This will be expedited in view of the recent flooding, the minister said.
Flooding is not a new occurrence in Singapore. At Commonwealth, for example, there had already been records of similar floodings back in 2007.
So will enhancing the drainage system resolve the problem?
While it is commendable to try to improve the drainage system to prevent future flooding , the effect of increasing urbanisation in Singapore should not be overlooked.
Minister Tan Chuan Jin, former Senior Minister of State for National Development, had denied this association of increased flood risk with urbanisation in Parliament during his budget speech this year. He pointed out that according to the expert panel which came up with the report published in January 2012, it did not say that large scale rapid urbanisation is the key contributor to the recent increase in flooding in Singapore. Instead, it said urbanization has led to an increase in storm water run-off which is what needs to be addressed. This is similar to what Dr Balakrishnan said in his comment after yesterday’s flood.
However, the report, titled, “Report on Key Conclusions and Recommendations of the Expert Panel on Drainage Design and Flood Protection Measures” , also said:
“The Panel was in general agreement that the increased urbanisation in the Stamford Canal Catchment might have been a contributing factor to the 2010 and 2011 floods, in addition to the higher rainfall intensities compared to design levels.”
“The Panel also noted that, other than generating higher and faster surface run-off, increased urbanization may also bring about other impacts such as increased heat production, changes in rainfall patterns and other climate change impacts. However, these specific impacts are still not well understood and there is a need for further studies.”
It would thus seem that the association or relationship between increased urbanization and flooding may be a real one, and not just some myth cooked up by conspiracy theorists.
With the recent announcements of a slew of major development works in the years ahead, we should pay more attention to what the experts have said – before it is too late.