Ensuring a flood-free Christmas in Thomson

Zhaki Abdullah Straits Times 21 Dec 17;

It was not a merry Christmas for businesses along Upper Thomson Road last year.

On Christmas Eve , the area was inundated following a heavy downpour, and patrons of eateries along a stretch of the road between Jalan Keli and Jalan Todak found themselves knee-deep in water.

Businesses reported significant losses as a result of the flood, including damage to their flooring and other infrastructure.

Less than a month later, the area was flooded again, though shops were spared damage on the scale of the previous deluge.

Water agency PUB found that unapproved drainage works at the construction site of the Upper Thomson MRT station - scheduled to open in 2020 as part of the future 43km-long Thomson-East Coast Line - had contributed to the Christmas Eve flood.

Earlier this month, PUB announced that construction firm Sato Kogyo, the contractor for the Upper Thomson station, had been fined $14,000 for carrying out the works.

When The Straits Times returned to the scene on Tuesday, almost a year after the incident, it was business as usual.

Workers at Ming Fa Fishball said they had not experienced any drop in the number of customers following last year's incident, and were not worried about floods.

At the modest Thomson Park in Jalan Keli - facing the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Zeh Shing Keong Temple - construction workers were having their lunch on the grass or perched on park benches, while others seized the opportunity to take a lunchtime nap in the shade of a gazebo.

Customers were crowding the eateries. Office workers slurped on their fishball noodles where, just a year ago, workers were clearing water and sand out of the premises.

The Roti Prata House - which has been in the area since 1995 - reported an estimated $30,000 of losses as a result of last year's flood.

On Tuesday, though, patrons were enjoying their meals against the backdrop of sizzling frying pans and shouts of orders.

Mr Syed Ridzwan, who has worked at the Roti Prata House for 13 years, said he was not worried about floods this year as the MRT contractor had taken steps to prevent flooding.

But, as a precautionary measure, the eatery has taken to placing ingredients such as flour and eggs on higher shelves.

Though the construction of the MRT station - which began three years ago - has deterred walk-in customers, the 40-year-old said he was not worried.

"We have been here for more than 20 years, our customers know the quality of our food."

Workers at Ming Fa Fishball said they had not experienced any drop in the number of customers following last year's incident, and were not worried about floods.

Although Upper Thomson Road - named after John Turnbull Thomson, a civil engineer who helped develop much of Singapore's infrastructure in the 19th century - is one of 55 flooding "hot spots" identified by the PUB, measures have been taken to ensure that last year's incident is not repeated.

It was announced earlier this month that, as part of efforts to prevent floods, the authorities would pump $500 million into upgrading the Republic's drainage network, including making monsoon drains and canals bigger.

This is in anticipation of more intense storms due to climate change.

The number of flooding incidents here has been increasing in recent years, with 14 days recorded this year, up from 10 last year, and six in 2015.

"Climate change is happening," said Associate Professor Koh Tieh Yong, adding that rising global average surface temperature could cause wind and rainfall patterns in the region to change.

Though it is hard to say how exactly they will change in the future, the weather expert from the Singapore University of Social Sciences said the PUB was "hedging its bets" by strengthening anti-flooding measures.

"We buy insurance not because we expect to be injured, but as a precaution against the possibility."