By Philip Ang
The recent unprecedented flooding on an expressway and western parts of Singapore has caused millions in losses for motorists and businesses.
Understandably, the obvious punching bag is Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Vivian Balakrishnan.
But this is wrong for 2 reasons:
- He had inherited the system of poor/no maintenance from his predecessors.
- The root cause of flooding being PAP’s economic ‘growth’ model.
A more suitable candidate for blame would be Minister Yaacob Ibrahim who helmed the ministry from 2004 to 2011. If his background in structural engineering could not prevent repeated flooding in Orchard Road and other parts of Singapore since 2009, is it logical for one to expect more from another minister with a medical background? Yaacob was even cocky enough to call it a freak event that “occurs once in 50 years”.
After 7 years as the Environment and Water Resources minister, his incompetence was rewarded with a rotation to another ministry with the usual bonuses and perks. None in the PUB was held accountable and have probably also been rewarded for their ‘sacrifice’. The absence of accountability in our system would probably ensure another freak event.
I have written numerous feedback on PUB’s (non) maintenance issues since 2011, specifically on its first line of defence i.e. drainage inlet chambers (DICs), which are located along the side of a road. This was based on my observations that most DICs were partially/totally choked despite the authorities having taken action. Our drainage system depends on this first line of defence against flooding. If DICs are choked, there is no point in building monsoon drains. Example of feedback to the government
If DICs could be blatantly ignored, what about other parts of the drainage system (covered/below ground) which are unseen? It was only logical to expect such an indifferent attitude to be extended to other parts of the drainage system.
After much toing and froing from the stubborn PUB, I managed to convince the government that DICs deserved urgent attention. Minister Vivian also agreed with my observations. Subsequently, it could be observed that DICs were cleared more frequently and I appreciate Minister Vivian for keeping to his word. But this alone does not prevent flooding.
Flooding is caused by a number of factors i.e. urbanisation, no/poor maintenance, poor planning etc. In its haste to boost our GDP by increasing the population, the PAP has refused to acknowledge urbanisation as one of the causes. Standing on hectares of once vacant land which used to absorb runoff are hundreds of commercial buildings and tens of thousands of residential units. The PAP government has naively assumed flooding can be prevented with human engineering.
Our insistence on having a garden in a city/city in a garden does not make economic sense anymore. The billions of leaves are a monumental task for NEA’s cleaning department, not to mention the effect of slowing down traffic when a lane is closed. Worse, with trees falling whenever it rains heavily.
The government has to back down on its grand plans to prop up economic statistics by increasing the population at an insane rate. All problems which are currently experienced by Singaporeans i.e. housing, public transportation, education etc are directly related to this policy.
As long as such a policy continues to be in place, blaming the messenger does not bring us any closer to a solution. We should not be distracted from the real issue and be prepared for worse to come.