Droughts more worrying than flash floods: Balakrishnan

SINGAPORE - While Dr Vivian Balakrishnam commended the recommendations put forward by the expert panel working to ease the flooding situation, he said more should be done to guard against dry spells as well.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking at ECo Day Out at South West today - a community driven recycling event.

The environment minister said that what has been happening in Singapore is a greater variability in the weather, which means more intense rain but also a possibility of droughts, The Straits Times (ST) reported.

According to ST, Singapore is likely to face a dry spell soon, due to the north-east monsoon, which typically starts in February.

Hence, Singapore's investments and efforts towards building a flood prevention infrastructure should be just as effective in managing other extreme weather conditions like droughts, a local news channel reported.

"A prolonged drought is something of a greater worry to me than a flash flood, which can be resolved over 15 minutes to half an hour," he said.

He added that he is keeping a close eye on the recommendations put forth by the panel to ensure that they also take into consideration future possibilities of dry seasons.

Dr Balakrishnam gave some examples of the recommendations, such as the installation of green roofs, building of detention ponds and using water more efficiently at a local level.

Other recommendations include the use of rooftops and more porous pavements.

While Dr Balakrishnan said he agrees with all the recommendations, he added that it will not be an easy task to turn them into reality.

He said besides the issue of securing finances, there will be trade-offs involved. For example, other potential alternative uses for the land required.

He said it will take time to produce a plan which is both realistic and one that the public will agree on is a value-for-money proposition.

Dr Balakrishnan also updated the public on the anti-flood measures in the works.

The improvement works at Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza is to be completed within three months, and the Public Utilities Board (PUB) will have about six months to decide whether to go ahead with the building of detention ponds, he said.

If they are to be built, PUB will also have to decide where they will be located.

Other works in progress include the Stamford Canal, which is to be checked within nine months to see if its current capacity if being maximised, and an accurate digital elevation map of Singapore, which is to take shape by the end of the year.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

Flash floods in Orchard Road and other parts of S'pore
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