Monday, July 19, 2010

Marina Barrage and the floods....

LATER UPDATE: NCMP Slyvia Lim (Worker's Party) asked about the role of the Marina Barrage in the recent floods.

Ms Lim had asked the minister to clarify what she termed as 'confusing statements' in the media about the role of the barrage in the floods, pointing out that PUB's Chief Executive Officer Khoo Teng Chye had earlier said it was not to be blamed for the June 16 flooding along Orchard Road. When opened to great fanfare two years ago, the $226 million Marina Barrage was being touted as the solution to relieve flash floods in low-lying areas around the city. Explaining the role of the barrage, Dr Yaacob said it played three main roles, that of a freshwater reservoir, to prevent floods as well as for recreational activities. During a rain storm, seven pumps and nine crest gates at the barrage are used interchangeably to release water out to sea depending on the prevailing tidal levels and predictions based on statistical modelling.[Link]

Dr. Yaacoob basically stuck to the explanation that the 16 June 2010 Orchard Rd flood was caused by 2 bursts of heavy downpour 30 minutes apart- 100mm of rainfall within 2 hours and clogged drains were the causes. This explanation is not satisfactory because Orchard Road area had 2 floods after 16 June after PUB said it will monitor drains for debris and rainfall was not as intense. The govt will look at look at widening Stamford canal to prevent future floods....this again is already behind the curve because there were many other places that were flooded 2 days ago Upper Thomson, Bukit Timah, Stevens Rd, Orchard Road, Cresent Road, Bedok and Sims Ave[Link]....a lot more has to be down all over Singapore.

UPDATE : I did a quick check on the Internet and found that the construction of barrages around the world to prevent or control flooding very often leads to increased flooding as an unintended consequence[Check for yourself here]. The reason is water flow (fluid dynamics) is highly complex and is often not amendable to analysis. One hint that something has gone wrong is areas that don't normally flood starts flooding (think Orchard Road). When the big flood in Orchard Road first occurred, the PUB quickly put out a statement that it was caused by debris and would be worse if the Marina Barrage was not there. Now that we have 3(?) other floods since then and floods recurring at Orchard Road at much lower rainfall than the earlier one, I think it is time for them to check all the possibilities not just the ones that absolve the govt from blame and conveniently lead to conclusions that nothing needs to be done.

"The Marina Barrage is the result of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s vision nearly two decades ago when he envisaged damming the mouth of the Marina Channel to create a freshwater reservoir" - PUB Website

A popular hypothesis has emerged among Singaporeans that the Marina Barage is a possible cause of the floods. I'm not an expert in floods so I cannot say with any certainty if this hypothesis is true. Remember a few weeks ago when Orchard Road became flooded, the govt quickly came out with an explanation that it was due to a clogged drain and that PUB will be monitoring the drains closely[Link]. How then do they account for the floods that came after that one? Orchard Road has been flooded a few times since then. The govt' has lost credibility due the flood issue and they will lose more if they don't come up with a good explanation and long term solution soon. Be it climate change, drainage or the Marina Barage, Singaporeans need to know what is going on and that there is a plan and solution in place that will prevent these damaging floods. Singaporeans are not so reasonable to expect 100 new drains to be constructed by tomorrow but they have to start working on the solution else can the govt answer to those whose goods, cars and homes have been damaged in recent weeks.

Why do so many Singaporeans think the Marina Barrage is the culprit?

The Marina Barrage (Chinese:滨海堤坝) is a dam in Singapore built across the mouth of the bay, between Marina East and Marina South. It was officially opened on 1 November 2008. [Wikipedia]

Here is an air picture of the barrage:

Another picture:

When the Marina Barrage was opened, it was said that it can be used for "flood control". The barrage has steel gates that separate the sea water from the fresh water. The barrage can prevent rising sea tide from flooding the island - but the problem is water flow in the other direction from the island to the sea. During heavy rainfall, the steel gates are opened to allow the storm water to flow into the sea. According to the hypothesis, herein lies the problem, in the past without the barrage, storm water flows freely into the ocean but with the barrage, this flow of water is impeded by the structure causing a back pressure leading to rising water levels on the island.

Netizens and ordinary Singaporeans do not have the data or expertise to rigorously prove this hypothesis. Only the govt and its experts can come up with rigorous explanations. I highlighted this popular hypothesis only to show the need for the govt to step forward and explain what is going on. The public generally don't accept "once in 50 years" and "debris in the drain" type of convenient (convenient for the govt to do nothing) explanations which now look rather ridicious given the frequency of these floods.

Some other flooding incidents associated with building of barrages in other countries:

In Kuching :
The Malaysian govt denied it because it was the one that build the barrage.

An official report by the Dutch Government found the construction of a storm surge barrier across the Oosterschelde estuary in the 1980s actually increased the risk of flooding in the area. [Link].


Divali said...

ST Forum: July 19

"Are current flood prevention measures effective?"

Anonymous said...

While these floodings become more commonplace, the authorities should by now be putting in place an Early Warning System. They already have Sirens all over Singapore, the Media, Mobile Alerts and CDF personnel. Surely all these can be utilized to warn residents of possible floods in their area before it happened.

What puzzles me is that floods are occurring in districts that never had floods before since time immemorial. Why is this happening?

Anonymous said...

PM already said not possible to avoid floods.

So bear with it. Or shift to highrise with multistorey carparks or other no flood areas.

And one more lesson. Next time don't always think landed property or condo (with basement car parks) is good. Check if it is also flood prone.

The best is stay in high rise HDB flat with no car and no shop which I think the majority do. Hence the flood is unlikely to be an election issue.

Anonymous said...

It is a barrage cum obstruction barrier. Commonsense, an open unobstructed river mouth has now something built across it like a barrier obstructing the free flows of water and current. As the barrier has to be strong to withstand the force and pressure of current and water flow, it has to be huge and strong. Thus more obstruction.

Supposing if there are pumps, like in shipyards to help to discharge water from the river into the sea, how effective will the pumps be in a heavy downpour? In an earlier comment, i guesstimated that the barrage construct could impede about 30% of water flow from the river to the sea based on commonsensical deduction. Caveat, me maybe technically inaccurate.

Many reasons were offered by netizens for the many recent damaging floods. Many of them seemed possible and reasonable, it will be good for the Relevant Departments to read and look into them. The worst could be reasonably expected soon as the rainny monsoon season is about to start and all the more the Authority has to look seriously into the floodings.

It was irresponsible to say that floodings could not be prevented or avoided before all measures are exhausted, for that matter not even explored.


Anonymous said...

Dr Amy Khor said it was working well. Otherwise, other areas in Singapore might have flooded too.

Perhaps it's good to ask her AGAIN :)

Maybe she'll say "..Otherwise WHOLE Singapore might be flooded too." this time

Anonymous said...

" "It was irresponsible to say that floodings could not be prevented or avoided before all measures are exhausted, for that matter not even explored.

Don't you think it is like a stereotype answer. Please recall the answer given by the MRT CEO Saw - she said nothing could be done about the overcrowding on trains SINCE THE SYSTEM IS RUNNING AT FULL CAPACITY. Typical answering pattern in the same vein. This govt is taking its citizens more and more for granted . It is so highly sensitive to criticism, however justified that it stooped to even arresting a press photographer for taking flood pictures? How ridiculous and how desperate it must be!!! A clear pattern of govt defensive actions is manifesting itself.

One could go on eg MM Lee 'digging spurs in our 'hides' and 'affordable' HDB by our minister in charge of housing.

It is a slippery slope down, all the way.

Anonymous said...

It is not the Marina Barrage, it is the copy cat Shanghai Bund.

It cannot be the cause of the floods.

PUB will only investigate when Oxley Rise is flooded.

Why is it that Singaporeans are so daft?!

Anonymous said...

This is what I heard from a civil engineer. The barrage is basically a dam retaining water that is suppose to flow into the sea. It causes water tables in Singapore to rise. When the rain comes, the issue it not whether they open up the barrage to allow water into the sea which is already an impeded process but water has accumulated all over the place already to cause sudden flash floods.

Alan Wong said...

Maybe the reason why Marina Barrage was built was to save LKY's face from being held ransom by the Mahathir's threat to stop selling water to Singapore ?

Maybe, it wasn't even meant to be a solution to alleviate flooding in the first place ?

Nobody really knows the real answer, isn't it ie. until they realize it didn't solve the problem but even made it more jialat ?

Anonymous said...

...Actually it is more like LKY cheap copy cat idea of following a similar set up in know the barrage at the thames river...called the thames barrage...except that one does not retain water but manage flooding of the thames river vis-a-vis the north sea.

To be frank...this shows why some folks pricks are so small...that they have to overcompensate with their overblow egos to outageous levels to the detriment of everybody else.

Just another small man who steals other ideas to self glorify his small prick that's all.

: (

Anonymous said...

i firmly believe that it is the marina barrage + works at IR that caused the floods.

of course, take one step further, the root cause is the incompetency of PAP government.

vote for CHANGE!

Anonymous said...

Singaporean like to look down on Kuala Lumpur and even dare say KL is worse than Bangkok and even Jakarta.

But the Malaysian were willing to invest heavily(RM2 billion) to protect its prized capital city from floods with the ingenius SMART Tunnel.

With Bangkok partially wrecked by Red protesters and Orchard Rd very wet, I guess the Golden triangle in KL is now the only premier shopping district in South East Asia.

Anonymous said...

"This is what I heard from a civil engineer. The barrage is basically a dam retaining water that is suppose to flow into the sea. It causes water tables in Singapore to rise. When the rain comes, the issue it not whether they open up the barrage to allow water into the sea which is already an impeded process but water has accumulated all over the place already to cause sudden flash floods."

chicken duck talk? what talk you uncle?

Anonymous said...

They said during heavy rainfall the barrage gates were open to let out water if there's low tide. I can't imagine if both heavy rainfall AND high tide occur at the same time. Will the floods be even worse?

Don't blame climate change. When our flash floods occurred, did JB or other nearby cities experience flooding of similar intensities?

Anonymous said...

If proven that the suspicion of the people is right, the head, of the whatever that department who investigated and came up with a wrong assessment of the flash flood and blamed the flooding on clogged drains, should take the fall.

Anonymous said...

To PP - they will blame everything other than the Marina Barrage. They will say if not for the wonderful Marina Barrage, the entire Singapore would be underwater :) It's like if you have more misfortune after consulting your fengshui master, the fengshui master will tell you it would be 100x worse had you not consulted him.

Anonymous said...

I was already screaming " It's the Marina Barrage, stupid" on 17th June on and 26th June on

Many parts of Singapore eg. Balmoral, Newton have been largely flood free for the last 15 years until .... 2009 when the Marina Barrage started operating. If water is to be retained in marina reservoir, then water will flow back into the canal system feeding into the Singapore River ie. Bukit Timah etc. rendering these canals to be much less effective as they are already half full before any heavy downpour. Furthermore the water table will rise which means that our soil will be less porous to soak in the rainwater during a heavy downpour. If our precious water reserves were to be released at the barrage before any downpour, it would probably take 10 hours before water level at Bukit Timah canal to be lowered. And what if the downpour was not that heavy? Why release precious water reserves so that there will not be floods? Why not put up with floods after all it would be only 1 - 2 hours of incovenience. Therefore the government cannot tell us the truth and PUB, the scape goat, will continue to give us hundreds of excuses from leaves to sensors to flaw in computer software to new flood alleviation programmes etc etc.


1. Sell your property if it is in low lying areas to unassuming FTs who have decided to come here to participate in the gold rush. Even new properties with basement carparks have not been spared eg. Gentle Reflections at Gentle Road was hit. The value will drop if everyone follows this trend. Even if you can get insurance coverage for floods, the premiums will be higher.

2. Buy and hoard property in high ground. There will be an increasing premium compared with other properties. Even rental on these properties will be higher than others.

3. Anyone under the age of 25 should go for mandatory flood survival lessons which should include driving in floods, rescue tactics, river swimming, etc

4. Entreprenuers should zoom into new business opportunities - water pumps and flood detection sensors for every condo with basement carparks, levy construction all around the island, rubbish collection, flood survival lessons, passenger compartment repair for vehicles damaged by floods, flood insurance, etc

With the YOG coming in the next few weeks where the world's media will be focussed on Singapore, the PUB should drain the entire Marina reservoir so that floods can be avoided at all cost. If it works and saves Singapore the embarassment of being flooded during the YOG, it only proves that the floods are caused by the Marina Barrage.

Anonymous said...

oohh ... you should consider lucky. without the elites great planning measures, there will be even more places flooding with even lower rainfall. now only a few area get flooded, please be contented.

if only those landed properties of those elites start to get flood, then they will seriously do something about it.

Anonymous said...

The explanation given by PUB today is incomprehensible and definitely not one I will accept. Singapore in the past 20 years has had rains more severe then these past 2 months. I recall distinctly in December 1993, it rain perpetually every day for about a week and almost non-stop. There are lulls between heavy downpours to slight drizzles throughout. Not once did any district reported that it had a flood. December was also the month that Kelantan and Trengganu and parts of Johor normally suffers from floods and thousands were evacuated every year. This time I have not heard any news of Johor, our nearest neighbour being flooded despite the deluge. I know for a fact that parts of Johor tends to flood whenever there is a very heavy downpours. The reasons given does not gel and our dear Minister should come out with better answers than those weak excuses.

Valen Minbari said...

Actually this is a conspiracy act by the opposition to steal votes during the coming election... Some say the opposition practices voodoo... Oh wait or is that witchcraft? Maybe Harry Potter? Damn the opposition party are evil!

Anonymous said...

people, have you checked out all the videos of the Singapore Great Flood?

i'm talking about almost waist-deep flooding in areas that had not seen such "action" for the past donkey years.

Singapore Great Flood started only after LKY's Marina Barrage kicked off. I'm telling you, this IS the culprit.

Anonymous said...

Even if the experts come to the conclusion that the Marina Barrage is key to these floods, don't expect the govt to admit it as long as LHL is PM and MM is alive.

Only when MM has kicked the bucket and LHL is no longer the PM, may be the truth be known.

Anonymous said...

its only july and we're already having floods... god knows what would happen come this december... better start saving for ur sampan soon

Anonymous said...

Sure, but how do you explain floods in places like bedok? To my knowledge water from bedok will not go to marina bay.

Anonymous said...

Another possible reason could be that the heavy rains also coincided with the higher tides at different times of the day. This was one reason put forward when minor floods occurred in the past eg around Lau Pa Sat, caused by rain plus high tide.

What other possible contributory factors causing the more serious floods recently should also be examined before they could figure out how to deal with the problem.

Right now, all the lame excuses are well, just excuses to pacify angry people with damaged properties and loss of business.

It would be interesting to see what is going to happen if the Marina Barrage is indeed the principal cause of the floods.

Being the brainchild of someone who never ever admit his mistakes, any admission of this as the main cause of the floods will be something which I would truly call 'a once in 50 years event'

Anonymous said...

This is damn fuking big. Billions of dollars went into planning the marina area and the drainage system. Now it causes disruption/destruction to businesses, properties and lives. Probably multimillion dollars will be wasted to correct the flooding problem. This will surely reflect badly on our civil service and may even cause our image to suffer dearly internationally.
I will be surprised if the opposition will not capitalize on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Forty years ago the Kallang and Singapore river smelled like a sewer...the Marina we have today is a class act.

Recent flooding n glitches, from where we came will be solved.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lucky Tan... I seldom disagree with your views but in the statement below... I must say I cant agree;

"The public generally don't accept "once in 50 years" and "debris in the drain" type of convenient (convenient for the govt to do nothing) explanations..."

Seriously, in Singapore - the public has totally lost its ability to think and rationale outside what is told to them thru our award-winning ST.

If it's debris, then it must be. No questions, period. Thank you

Anonymous said...

We do not have flood at orchard area in the pass, it colud be orchard area the concrete blocks not as dense as today. The natural water path ways to the earth are cutting off and not able to assist the present drainage system to ease the water flow. I believe when our govt build the barrage, they might have making the assumption that the drainage system is working fine and orchard area is safe. But then the changing of the orchard area with more cement than green path might have change the game and with get cause. We have unground construction eveywhere today, the drainage system need to revisit before we get trapped.

pkj said...

Lucky - maybe it is also worthwhile for you (and readers) to also consider if Ion Orchard plus new buildings around the Orchard MRT area may have increased the rate of discharge of rain water into Orchard Canal. I have not been walking around that area for many years (working overseas). There used to be a big field in that area (20,000m2 x 100mm rain, around 1 Olympic pool) and it could have controlled the rate of discharge of water into the canal back then.

Anonymous said...

When there is a problem you don't really understand or have clear evidence of the cause, the best method is solving by trial and error.

Try A, try B, try C, keep on trying until can work lah.

Just like doctors changing their prescription until the patient is cured. Provided the patient haven't die yet.

Anonymous said...

A few more floods should do the job.
Pray for heavy rain. LoL

Anonymous said...

Without foreigner vandals, Singaporeans hardly get to know how complacent, negligent and bochap(lazy) men and women in high commercial and POLITICAL OFFICES are.

If not for the floods, Singaporeans will be convinced of the TALENTS our Parliamentarians are the best amongst all.

Now, with the ways they answered the constituencies about the floods, Singaporeans got to know how they spouted whatever reasons they could grabbed to wriggle out of responsibilities. Despite some of those replies apparently going against logics and reasonabilities, they dished them out without shames.

Singaporeans opened their eyes and ears big big just to let themselves be fooled by their bullshittings parliamentarians. Their Words were/are more sickening than the floods, they made the blood boiled.


rain dance said...

the cure to all this talk about flooding is for S'pore to get a dose of the mother of all floods! all the ungrateful folks living in HDB flats surrounded by 3 metres of water will realise this govt actually has their interests at heart.

ps: may heaven piss and piss
on 9th Aug.

Anonymous said...

hope the next flood would help to flush out all the dirt accumulating at parliament house....

Kojakbt said...

To me, the recent flooding is 100% due to the inadequate design of the Marina Barrage. Let me ask you this simple question. For those of you who have lived in Singapore for decades, have you ever heard of Orchard Rd being flooded, say in last 20 years or even 30 years? No right? When did we start seeing flooding in Orchard Rd and when was the Marina Barrage built? It's too much of a coincidence.

Here, take a look at this pic. You can see that Orchard canal underneath Orchard Rd actually flows to the Marina Bay:

Also, take a look at past rainfall data. Take note of the max rainfall a day in the past years. Do you see flooding occured in Orchard Rd in those past years?

That is, in the past, we have endured max of 194, 178, 198mm of rainfall without any flooding, as far as I can remember. But since the barrage opening in late 2008, we have been seeing floodings...

According to ST on 18th Jul, the rainfall on 17th which caused the island wide flooding was only between 178.4 - 179.6mm!

Kojakbt said...

This is another photo provided by ST to explain how the Barrage works:

Now imagine you have the 3rd scenario. If the pumps are not working fast enough or too few pumps, we will not be able to get rid of the water at the downstream and it's only inevitable that water at the upstream (ie, Orchard Canal) will get clogged up.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Lucky

With all these flooding ... why do we still need Newater?

Kojakbt said...

One more point, it was reported that Marina Barrage only has 7 pumps to pump out water in case of high tide situation. Can you imagine, 7 pumps for the large part of Singapore to assist in the drainage in a thunderstorm?


Lucky Tan said...


I saw the straits times picture too. In the 1st diagram, the crest gate is lowered to allow fresh water to go to sea if sea level is lower. This just doesn't help to 'alleviate' floods because in past when the barrage was not there water simply flowed freely into the ocean we have to wait for the crest gates to be lowered and the structure itself impedes the flow of water.

Anonymous said...

Now looking at the given facts, I think the problem may not be the barrage.
Without the hard evidences, I venture to speculate that the cause may be due to all the new constructions that were completed in the last two years.Take orchard for instance. The huge ion, 313, orchard central etc were completed around that time.These humongous buildings have become larger catchment areas for rain than before and with its new collective drainages all converged at the canal, the current canal couldn't handle the torrential waters from all these new constructions and consequently, flooded the low lying areas.
Their suggestion to enlarge the canal may just be the hint that supports my theory?

Lucky Tan said...

anon 23:21,

It is possible that a few factors combine to worsen the flood. I really think a thorough investigation is need. Otherwise, the govt is just jumping from one bad explanation to another.

Anonymous said...

Lucky, I suspect that they know the real reason for the flood when they suggested to widen the canal to address the flooding problem but may not be expedient for them to disclose an oversight.

Anonymous said...

One more thing. If the problem is at the barrage, all they need to do is to add more pumps to pump out the water but why didn't they suggest that? That would have been an easier and probably cheaper option?
Adding more pumps cannot solve a bottle neck problem and in any case,I believe the barrage is fully adequate or can be easily adapt to changing needs.

Anonymous said...

I hope that those 66% who vote for the kangaroo party in last election get to enjoy the free public swimming pool in the area where there is flood. After all, this is how the party repay those who vote for them.

Kojakbt said...

Lucky, here's another pic which may be of interest to you and the bros here :)

In fact, it highlights new potential flood areas if you have extreme downpours in those areas...

The Pariah said...

It sure puts a new spin on

The Pariah,

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