Canal upgrade is part of long-term plan

The recently announced upgrades to the Stamford Canal catchment area are part of a long-term plan to protect Singapore against increasingly volatile weather, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday.

"We plan 50 years to 100 years in advance. That's the way Singapore has to be. We always have to have a long-term view on things," he said.

While the Government is "focusing on the Orchard Road area" for now, Dr Balakrishnan said that the upgrading of the country's irrigation systems is a "nationwide" and "long-term" initiative.

He was replying to media enquiries regarding national water agency PUB's announcement last Thursday that a detention tank and a diversion canal would be built to improve the flood resistance of the Orchard Road area.

The tank and canal - planned for completion in 2015 and 2017 respectively - are expected to ease Stamford Canal's stormwater load.

Stamford Canal, which runs under the Orchard Road shopping belt, was blamed for the Orchard Road floods in 2010 and last year Speaking at Gardens by the Bay on the sidelines of a charity run that marked the National Environment Agency's 10th anniversary, Dr Balakrishnan said that the weather in the future is very unpredictable, so flood-protection plans might change.

"You have to be prepared. You have to build in buffers. And as new data emerges, the plans will have to evolve. You have to be ready for the future.

"That's basically the way Singapore has to prepare for a more and more uncertain future as far as the climate is concerned," he said.

Mr Chew Men Leong, chief executive of PUB, said that many other public agencies were consulted in arriving at the decision to go ahead with the Stamford Canal initiatives announced last week.

The initiatives were also selected because they were the most feasible and cost effective among those considered.

Mr Chew added that either one of the proposed initiatives alone would not be enough to protect the Stamford Canal catchment area against floods.

"The diversion canal and the detention (tank) serve to strengthen the flood-resilience of different parts of the catchment... One option by itself will not be sufficient," he said.

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