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Where art thou, #masagos?

by Jose Raymond

It has been one week since a heavy downpour left parts of Singapore’s east flooded, inconveniencing hundreds if not thousands of Singaporeans.

Cars were left partially submerged and videos of people trying to push their cars out of the flooded areas have been making the rounds via social media and WhatsApp chat groups.

Also, a choked gully also caused a lift to rain in Tampines St 45 which the Tampines Town Council called ‘an unfortunate incident’.

A day later, brief floods also hit the Tanjong Pagar area, not in the same intensity as the floods in the east.

Actually, what’s more unfortunate is that the Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli has remained silent and has not said a word since the flooding in the east.

Over the last week, he has only made one Facebook post, which was totally unrelated to the floods.

Since the flood episode of 2011 which affected Orchard Road and parts of Tanglin, the government has announced that it will be spending $1.7 billion of drainage improvement works.

Also, a PUB report released in 2013 also stated that the Singapore Government has invested more than $2 billion in drainage improvement works over the last 30 years prior to 2013.

One of the main causes of flooding is rapid urbanisation.

The development of high-density satellite towns, residential and commercial developments, will inadvertently mean a reduction of green spaces and and increase in paved areas.

What happens as a result of the storm is that there will be an increase in peak flows where more runoff is generated and flows faster into the drainage system over a shorter period of time instead of being regulated by infiltration into the soil and evaporation.

In a media briefing on 8 January, national water agency PUB said that water will be better managed, once ongoing drainage improvement works are completed by the first quarter of 2019.

“You can be very sure that when drainage improvement works are completed, the situation will definitely be improved,” said Mr Yeo Keng Soon, director of PUB's Catchment and Waterways Department in a report carried by Channelnewsasia.

“The drains will be able to discharge more water in a shorter period of time (when works are completed)," he added. "(But) whether an area will be flood-free, we cannot promise that.”

In a Facebook post on 8 January, the Singapore People’s Party had asked “when was the last time the drainage systems in the eastern part of the island were upgraded to keep up with urbanisation?”

The PUB said that eight of the locations where flooding occurred on 8 January are where three main improvement works are currently ongoing.

But what’s still unclear is why has there been radio silence from #masagos.