Minister to PUB: A flood is a flood

Chua Yini

The Public Utilities Board's (PUB) usage of the word "ponding" to describe several incidents of flooding at Liat Towers was inappropriate, said Minister of Environment and Water Resources Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday.

Speaking in Parliament, the Minister said: “As far as I am concerned, PUB should not have used the word ‘ponding’. I call a spade a spade. A flood is a flood.”

“As long as there's water accumulating somewhere where it's not supposed to be, as long as it has implications on human safety, business operations, that is a flood, and it is a problem that needs to be solved,” he said.

On 23 December 2011, heavy rains caused flooding in various parts of Orchard Road, including the open area in front of Liat Towers. The underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City and the basement of Lucky Plaza were similarly affected. 

In response to the incident, the PUB stated that “there was no flooding at Orchard Road”, but that water had “ponded” at Liat Towers and other low-lying locations.

Final-year student at the Nanyang Technological University, Xue Jianyue, agreed with the Minister, saying he “did the right thing”. 

“It’s a real problem out there and the government has to be honest about it and not worry about public image,” said the 24-year-old. “I think Singaporeans are very realistic and pragmatic. If a problem is real they can take some inconvenience and wait for it to be solved.”

However, others feel that more should be done to alleviate the problem, instead of finding fault with the PUB’s word usage.

Said Jean Chia, 28, a teacher: “The issue should not be the choice of word the PUB used, but what is being done to solve the problem.” 

Similarly, Xie Ying, 23, a data analyst, is more concerned about the measures taken to prevent another incident of flooding.

“People don’t care what word you use. They care more about what you do,” she said. 

PUB is currently looking at more ways to increase the capacity of Stamford Canal, where excess water from Liat Towers is drained to.

According to the agency, the canal’s capacity would have to be increased by at least a third to minimize the risk of similar incidents. 

It has invested $2 billion over the past 30 years to reduce the low-lying flood prone areas from 3200 hectares in the 1970s to today's 49 hectares.

Mr Balakrishnan observed in Parliament that increasing rainfall and urbanization are making flood prevention efforts more difficult. As such, greater collaboration between ministries is needed.

In June last year, 124mm rain fell over four hours in Orchard Road, causing the Tanglin area to be flooded by 100mm.

Last month, over three hours of rain caused water levels to rise as high as 153mm.

Liat Towers has since built a 60-cm brick wall lining the side and back of the building in the latest preventive measure to protect its properties and shops from future flooding.

Additional reporting by Jeanette Tan