Jan 1, 2012

Flooding in Singapore - We Need Solutions, Not Excuses

It rained heavily on 23 December and there was flooding in several parts of Singapore. However, the PUB claimed that there was no flooding at Orchard Road. I quote the exact words from their press release: "There was no flooding at Orchard Road."

I don't understand how government authorities in Singapore can tell such blatant lies. It is shocking and it makes me worry about what this country is coming to. It is normal for a country to have problems, and I think it is ok to say, "We have a problem, and we will be taking action to solve it." But to tell an outright lie, such as "There was no flooding at Orchard Road" ... What does that tell you about our government?

It indicates dishonesty. That's bad enough. But it also shows stupidity. This is also very worrying, for we are in serious trouble if we have a stupid government. Why do I say that the Orchard Road incident reflects the government's stupidity?

I say so, because the lie was so stupid. This is the Internet era. Anyone in Orchard Road at that time could easily have pulled out his or her handphone, and taken a photo of the floods and posted it on blogs, forums, Facebook, Stomp etc.

And the lie would be completely exposed. If you were dishonest and you also actually had some brains, you should be telling your lies with a little more skill, surely.

Indeed, at Orchard Road, buildings such as Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza were flooded, and people did take photos and post them on the Internet.

Not a flood ... Then what is this?
A new water catchment area in Orchard Road?

Lucky Plaza's new design for a water fountain.
Works only on rainy days.
It took a full week, but later the PUB decided that it had better admit that there were floods at Orchard Road. Their new press release on 30 December stated: "The sustained heavy downpour resulted in the flooding of several roads including the Thomson/Cambridge areas as well as the basements of Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza."

Oooh, the magic word has suddenly appeared in their statement. There was "flooding", after all, and at Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza, which are in the heart of the Orchard Road area.

But you can still smell the stubborn PUB attempt at obfuscation - they won't say the words "Orchard Road" and they insist on inserting the word "basements".

Well, of course, it is the BASEMENTS that are flooded. Basements are the lowest floors of any building. Isn't it bad enough that the basements are flooded? What does the PUB want - does it expect the 2nd floor or 4th floor to be flooded? Bah.

In the aftermath of the event, it's also distressing to see how the Straits Times reported the event. To me, it felt like the top ST priority was to defend the reputation of the PUB and the government. Look at the way the Straits Times chose to entitle its article - "Half a Typical December's Rain Fell in Three Hours". The first two paragraphs of the article read as follows:

"In three hours last Friday, the rain that pelted down on Orchard Road was half of what December typically gets in the entire month.

Between 2.20pm and 5.20pm, 152.8mm of rain fell in the area. The long-term average for December - the wettest month in the entire year - is 287.4mm."
Okay, let me deconstruct that for you. In the context of all the flooding events that occurred in the past year, the underlying message from the Straits Times is:

1. The rain on 23 December was really, really extraordinary.
2. Don't blame the government for the floods at Orchard.

But was the rain on 23 December really that extraordinary? Was the flood at Orchard all that different from all those many floods that we have seen in the past few years, in different parts of Singapore? Including Orchard Road itself?

To understand what a "typical" December rainfall is really like, we can investigate the source of the ST's claim. It comes from the PUB press release on 30 December. The PUB states:
"On the afternoon of 23 Dec 2011, a total of 152.8mm of rain fell from 2.20pm to 5.20pm at the Orchard Road area. This is equivalent to about half the average monthly total (287.4mm) of rain recorded for the entire month of December over the last 142 years (1869 to 2010)."
So their idea of typical December rainfall is based on the average December rainfall over the past 142 years. Dating back to the time when Lee Kuan Yew's father's father's father had just emigrated to Singapore.

Rainfall levels over the past 142 years may be of some meteorological interest to the meterologists. To the general public, it can't be. Singapore has been suffering from floods for the past few years now, and even prime shopping areas and tourist attractions like Orchard Road are getting hit. This is NOT the first time in recent memory that Orchard Road is getting hit.

To the PUB:

We don't care what happened 142 years ago. We don't even care what happened 50 or 30 years ago. Singapore has a flood problem TODAY. And it is your responsibility to fix it. Even if global warming is causing climate change and heavier rains nowadays, it is STILL your responsibility to fix the flood problem.

You should spend less time worrying about how to protect your public image. And more time actually working to solve the flood problem. You'll probably make more progress that way. And the people of Singapore will appreciate it. So please stop being stupid, and go and do the right thing.


Anonymous said...

Exactly right Mr Wang! You have a real gift when it comes to telling it like it is :)


Sgcynic said...

Their reputation is already in tethers, from reducing flood areas under the old guard to having to rely on this point to salvage their credibility after new areas are flooded over the last 2 years. Worse that they are caught lying now, after their earlier "exchange" with Liat Towers management attributing the "ponding" to the inadequacy of the building's pumps and denying that the Stamford Canal could not cope with the rainwater (what's new). They need to tweak their manpower needs - just fire a few in the topmost ranks. Deadwood clogging the drainage.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Wang, I feel your pain. I bet
the business owners who are adversely affected by the flood must be seething too.Why don`t they get together and sue PUB for damages due to negligence? Would`nt that work? Mmmm..wait.. second thought, it will be a pure waste of time and resources. I forgot, PUB is part of the government machinery... how
can we be so stupid to think that we can fight it. We just have to accept that this flood is just a
puddle..just as everything that we
are told.

symptom said...

On the day after the flooding Liat Towers claimed that the cause was due to the Stamford Canal being full. PUB immediately denied outright this was the case.

A week later PUB's press release of 30 Dec finally admitted that indeed it was the Stamford Canal that was full and Liat Towers' assessment was correct from the beginning.

Like the SMRT failures, I believe all these problems are systemic. They are clear indications of management and organisational failures at the very top.

Alan Wan said...

There is only one word to describe our PAP govt : COMPLACENT.

The Govt has collected millions in devt charges from all the hectic development along Orchard Road but has not taken any major step to upgrade the major Stamford Canal thinking it is more than adequate to cater for any new developments.

Still insisted in blaming the Liat Towers management for being unable to manage their floods instead of admitting that they have been complacent all these years.

Maybe our Govt placed more priority in paying their own Ministers 'adequately' especially afterall when they think that flooding is a once in 50 years incident.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering whether it is coincidence that behind the SMRT and PUB failings lie two former Chiefs of Navy.

One wonders whether the Singapore Navy itself might be of concern.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,

First of all, let me say I thoroughly agree with Mr Wang on this.

That aside, strictly speaking PUB was not trying to fudge the issue using the word 'ponding'. Ponding is a legitimate and correct vocab to describe the flood at Orchard Road and elsewhere in Singapore.

You may want to visit this link for more details:


IMO, it is important that the PUB has now 'discovered' or openly admitted that it is ponding that's the cause of the 'flash' flood. As being clear on the cause and context only then can you find a proper solution.

PUB's statement that retention ponds would have to be built to solve the problem indicates this realization.

Ponding is just another form of flooding. So there should not be any quarrel over terminology. What's important is the solution. I have been wondering where is the PUB going to find an area large enough to create this impounding pond in the vicinity. If not an alternate strategy is to place adequate capacity pumps at ponding prone locations to suck away ponding water via a conduit to a more distant off 'venue' location which can accommodate a pond/lake.

As an aside, the Marina Barrage definitely has some causative role in the rise of the problem. The barrage prescribed raised water level would have resulted in raising the water table throughout its catchment area. A raised water table simply means a reduced capability of the ground to absorb rainfall.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

even more telling is that when radio host Hossan Leong announced about the MRT malfunction, he was been reprimanded because there was no official statement from sMRT yet, and yet he announced the incident from what has been REALLY happen.

And PUB has made a OFFICIAL statement that "there is no flood in orchard road", and seriously the PAP government has already set themselve up as a govt that cannot be trusted with fact and truth, but it is not as if PAP has any credibility to begin with. PAP's official statement is full of contradict, half-truth and lies, no wonder the new media overtakes govt's media.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

that is not the first time that government related-entities doing that and get away with it, and all because of these LKY family and love of saving their face and ego.

Take a read at these lies too:

GIC under famillee claims it “recouped” most of its losses, but no actual figures given


It seems normal for PAP to lie blatantly because it is business as usual for them.

Any intelligent investors can see easily see through these lies. They buy high and sell low, and suddenly announce that they have recouped the loss even though the economy is not recovered. Who these AssH#$% kidding us with ?

Anonymous said...

"This is equivalent to about half the average monthly total (287.4mm) of rain recorded for the entire month of December over the last 142 years"

Someone forget to tell PUB that for the first few decades of 142 years, there is no underground shopping mall and building , so how is that info relevant to modern SinCity ?

Anonymous said...


PUB is exactly what Mr Wang is asking it.

PUB => Please Use Brain

Anonymous said...

"Singapore has a flood problem TODAY. And it is your responsibility to fix it."
Mr Wang

But not easy to fix lah.

Some more, if cannot fix, also like that what. PUB will still be there, PAP govt will still be there.

Can you sack PUB, sack PAP govt? Can lah but have to wait 5 years and some more only if majority (60%) agree.

Anonymous said...

At least they are getting an ex navy guy to head PUB, that itself is an acknowledgement of the direction of the agency. May he settle in his job like a duck to water. We may need the navy's help the next time it pours.

Anonymous said...

Actually, "ponding" was not the first euphemism used to obfuscate the severity. "Haze" was used when "smog" should be the correct word to describe the annual smoking tribute from Indonesia.

Anonymous said...

"May he settle in his job like a duck to water."
Anon January 1, 2012 6:15 PM

Hope so lah. But if he cannot, die lah. Because no better ducks already, based on your logic.

ZhuKoLiang said...

Mr Wang, u r a blogger that i truely respect and indeed a very great in analytical power.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Wang,

Happy New Year!

2 things

1) What if the real way to fix the problem is to get rid of the Marina Barage? Can you imagine any government doing that?

2) As you can see, when you post stuff that has socio-political implications you get a lot more comments.

Jb said...

Seems to me that we probably got to wait until someone drowns in a flood or suffocates in a broken down train before it can officially become a problem.

The first step to solving a problem is to admit that there is one in the first place. It shudders to think that in the future Singaporeans have to live with floods and unreliable trains, until the problem escalates to a degree which cannot be ignored. I have a better idea : how about nipping problems in the bud instead of waiting for a catastrophe?

Anonymous said...

basically, there is too much pride that stands between the pap and the pap doing its job. we r not talking here of doing a Good job, but just getting basics right.

it has spent a lot of time lambasting sporeans for qualities it has carefully nurtured, among them greed, elitism and moneythism, to change means admitting it is wrong. that they have screwed up like normal pple do. the king erred, and majorly.

hence, admitting something as basic as there was recently ponding/flooding becos the stamford canal was full is a terrible embarrassment to them,
a ghastly come down.

this inability to admit one is wrong - they eventually never did but just said the canal had been full - runs thru spore society. it takes big people, confident people, people who are HUMBLE, to admit such a thing. at the end, too many sporeans are have become small pple, petty pple, becos of greed, moneythism and elitism. there is too much arrogance.

everyone knows how difficult it is to deal with a bunch of pompous asses, and that is basically who we have running our country...into the ground.

Amused said...

This is just another instance of raising the GST to "help" the poor, housing are "affordable" etc.

What you really need to worry about is the size of the reserve and your CPF savings. There is no transparency and only PAP has the real picture.

If you still believe that the government is doing something about the inflation, you are mistaken. Their strong S$ policy lasted as long as the 2 elections. The S$ today at $1.297/USD is weaker than $1.283/USD a year ago. It reached a high of $1.20 in late August. And as soon as the PE was over, it weakened to $1.30 within 30 days!

Divali said...

[No intent to dissipate flood impact]

Letter from Tan Nguan Sen Director, Catchment & Waterways, PUB 04:46 AM Jan 02, 2012

Anonymous said...

"And as soon as the PE was over, it weakened to $1.30 within 30 days!"
Amused January 2, 2012 3:24 AM

The PAP govt can decide whether to make S$ strong or weak what. This is common knowledge.

Remember Singapore is small, that's why it is easier to control the currency and even election boundaries and GRCs.

That's why even winning 93% seats in elections no big deal lah, simply because the opposition is really not ready to rule what, so PAP won by default lah.

Anonymous said...

there is more than just infrastructure that singapore needs to fix. This is something bigger - tectonic plate movements in the ring of fire. Currently, mariana trench is collapsing and caused the tsunami-like flooding in Philippines. Earthquakes in Christchurch New Zealand, flooding in Thailand, Pakistan, India, etc are all part of the Indo-austrlian plate tilting and rising on the eastern end but going under the himalayas.

In a nutshell, a poleshift is upon us and now is the time to take action.

Goto www.poleshift.ning.com or zetatalk.com for more details.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Mr Wang!

Anonymous said...

The marina barage is the initiative of LKY. Do you think anyone dare to point the flood problem to the barrage?

Anonymous said...

Actually Orchard Road did not flood lah.

Had it been flooded, the mainstream media headline would be "Orchard road become Orchard river". This was their headline in Jun 2010, when Orchard Road really flooded.

Now it is only the Liat Towers basement became a pond, not river lah. So they are right to describe it as "ponding".

Ponding is not as serious as flood lah because fewer places and people are affected.

Anonymous said...

The most important thing is to ensure that majority of places and people are not affected by flood.

Just like majority voters(at least 60%) voted PAP at every election.

Anonymous said...

LOL, I see that standards and expectations have really fallen.

Next, someone will say that it's ok for MRT trains to break down every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, as long as they work from Thursday to Sunday.

Majority of the week still working, mah.

Gary said...

From the website "Floodsite"

Flooding in urban areas can be caused by flash floods, or coastal floods, or river floods, but there is also a specific flood type that is called urban flooding.

Urban flooding is specific in the fact that the cause is a lack of drainage in an urban area. As there is little open soil that can be used for water storage nearly all the precipitation needs to be transport to surface water or the
sewage system. High intensity rainfall can cause flooding when the city sewage system and draining canals do not have the necessary capacity to drain away the amounts of rain that are falling. Water may even enter the sewage system in one place and then get deposited somewhere else in the city on the streets. Sometimes you see dancing drain covers.

Ponding is a type of flooding that can happen in relatively flat areas. Rain water falling in an area is normally stored
in the ground, in canals or lakes, or is drained away, or pumped out. When more rainwater enters a water system than can be stored, or can leave the system, flooding occurs. In this case, rain is the source of the flood: not water coming from a river, but water on its way to the river. That's why
it is also called "pluvial flood".

Surely, the reasons for the flood is clear by these definitions?

Anonymous said...

Surely, the reasons for the flood is clear by these definitions?"

So in the future, should we call it "reservoiring" instead when there is heavy flood occupying few storey high underground in ion building.

PAP should stop using highfatin words in case they make a fool of themselves, not that they aren't one to begin with. Why make a fool of themselves when they are already a fool ?

Anonymous said...

Build underground water recycle plant at places where ponding takes place and Singapore will never need to buy water from any other country.

So simple also cannot think. What talent? What elite?

Sgcynic said...

Singapore is now considering building an underground science city below Science Park. Although such a city will never flood (no flash floods), we have to be careful that a ponding of such a deep bashful would result in death of thousands.

Sgcynic said...

I meant ponding of such a deep *basement*.

Anonymous said...

Look like the old man is axing his plan of underground mausoleum due to serious nationwide flood issue !

Don't be surprise if the old man build a mausoleum on Marina Sands Skypark.

Oh yeah , old man saying to God "you can't touch this !" of his own skyhigh mausoleum.

Nevermind old man surely forget about lightning strike on merlion.

Anonymous said...

anonymous - January 2, 2012 6:51 PM

You are not wrong to think that the govt is trying to push blame because, ponding within someone's premises or ground (eg. backyard) implied a private responsibility. PUB MAY have had this in mind when parlaying with the Liat Towers management at the beginning. But the crux of the issue is that for all intents and purposes, the WHOLE area in that stretch and other stretches of Orchard Rd and elsewhere in Singapore, are potential or de facto ponding ground due to the natural geography of the island - it is 'pockmarked' extensively throughout with basins/ponding sites!

lobo76 said...

"1) What if the real way to fix the problem is to get rid of the Marina Barage? Can you imagine any government doing that?"

I don't the barrage has anything to do with it. The reason is more likely to be 313, Ion, and everything that was recently built along Orchard road.

If anything, we may need MORE barrages to 'absorb' the overflow since Orchard Road no longer has any place to suck the water.

Anonymous said...

Happy new year Mr. Wang and as usual a great analysis.

I am just curious.. what is the difference in the drainage design for Liat Towers/Lucky Plaza that is difference from wheelock/Ion Orchard/Orchard MRT station? The commonality is in the age of the building... why are the new building not flooded at the basement?

Would be good if we can get some inputs from civil engineers background readers.


Anonymous said...

The mentality of Singapore civil servants. Pushing the buck .In the course of my work, I frequently deal with them.
Many go by the book,as long as they see inch of grey area, they refer to you with another Govt dept and so on and on.
Many behave like little emperors as
they are in a position to issue summons.
Take the case of the discovery of a wartime bomb in a private area.
where the Police asked the owner to hire a private disposal unit to detonate it as its not their business. Perhaps when somebody is killed will we see some action.
We need to have a overhaul of the civil service before we see the meaning of the service.

Anonymous said...

Long long time ago, citizens already sounded out that floods were mostly caused by the canal which is not moving the waters away from affected areas fast enough. Well, the authorities listen to experts and the noises fell on deaf ears. Finally, the inevitable happens. Liat tower was flooded again despite following the measures recommended by their experts, and after spending millions of taxpayer's monies. Orchard road is obviously flooded. And now they are forced to admit that the Stamford canal couldn't cope with the rainfall - told you so.

The Minister, Vivian, came out and what did he say? Still talk cock:


"Clearly, more needs to be done. The fact that Stamford Canal at that section has reached 100 per cent capacity means that we don't have enough reserve capacity to deal with more intense rainfall and further variability in the weather, which I anticipate will occur in the future. So, we will have to accelerate our plans for alternatives to Stamford Canal," he said on Monday. 

He also gave assurances that the authorities will act to fix the problem.

He said: "Clearly, there still needs to be a reserve capacity built in and that's something we are going to have to work on. It's not something which can be solved overnight...these are very expensive projects...we will have to approach this methodically and carefully. But what I'm making a commitment to is that we will make things better."

End quote.

See. You get his underlining message? MILLIONS OF DOLLARS will be wasted again because he is following his experts on expensive and extensive projects which will take years before things improve.

Maybe you should undertake a cheaper and faster process by simply...powering the canal(without expensive expansion of drainages) to speed up the drainage during a flood? Catch no ball hah? Why are you paid millions then?

Anonymous said...

Well said, Mr Wang! I can't agree more on their outright dishonesty and stupidity in many degrees!!!! Orchard Road was not flooded until the very recent yrs. What has changed? Something MUST hv changed! And for the worst. We've not experienced any flooding in Orchard Road before, say 10 or 20 yrs ago, when rainfall was very very bad before too, once in the early 1970s and once in the early 1980s, it rained continuously for days stretching abt 1-2 weeks! Typically, Dunearn Road is always the traditional flood area. Why do we have fresh floods if nothing has changed! So, high paying officials, pls use your powderful brain, trace thru what has changed to cause these fresh floods and fix the problem!!!!

Anonymous said...

prease dun state obvious and waste time and bendwidth


The said...

/// I am just curious.. what is the difference in the drainage design for Liat Towers/Lucky Plaza that is difference from wheelock/Ion Orchard/Orchard MRT station? The commonality is in the age of the building... why are the new building not flooded at the basement?

Would be good if we can get some inputs from civil engineers background readers.

Diggo ///

Diggo, the new buildings don't have basements that are open to the elements - only the older ones like Lucky Plaza and Liat Towers have basement that are open to run-offs from the roads and rainwater from the roof.

What compounds the problem in the last 2 decades is the adding of more buildings along Orchard Road. This is a double whammy - open space like the park where Ion sits that use to absorb water and surface run-offs are now concreted over. Besides not allowing rainwater to permeate directly into the earth, the concreted area now contributes to the surface runoff into Stamford Canal. Ion, 313, Central, Wheelock Place - almost the whole stretch of Orchard Road is now developed.

But the biggest culprit must be the Marina Barrage. You want inputs from engineers? Just one word - Afflux.

kein said...

Thumbs up excellent post!