We used to pity Jakarta and other cities for their “Third World” style flooding, safe in our super-efficient infrastructure and modern facilities. But after a few recent floods, most notably along Bukit Timah (a rich man’s residential estate) and Orchard Road (our shopping belt), we should be turning that pity on ourselves.
After the Bukit Timah flood, we waited for a robust response from our government, something like, “This flooding is not acceptable and we will cast out the demon of poor drainage, and restore peace, balance and dryness to our society!”
But instead, we were told by Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Environment and Water Resources, that the Bukit Timah flood was an event that “occurs once every 50 years”, a freak event of more rain than usual.
That was in November 2009. Then months later, another once-every-50-years freak event happened (time moves very fast in Singapore) and Orchard Road flooded.
A newly opened Wendy’s and a Starbucks at the basement of Liat Towers were submerged in water. A Hermès store was hit too. Many women I know wept at that last bit of news (nooooo, not the poor little Birkin bags! Send in the Navy Divers!).
A flood of excuses
We held our breath for an official response, a sign from the gods that they have seen the carnage that floods can do to mankind and water-logged Lamborghinis parked in basement carparks. We awaited their divine intervention.
Instead, we were told, ‘Hey, the rain was heavier than usual, debris clogged an important culvert, and the guys in charge of the drains were caught off-guard. Tough.’
Then the PM weighed in. He said that we should not expect a flood-free Singapore, that it was unrealistic.
Given Singapore’s tropical climate, he said, it will be very costly to keep the country flood free and any attempt to wipe out flooding here will require a lot of money and land.
I think it’s time Singaporeans learn to swim.
But fear not! Lest you think Singapore is not prepared for the worst, look at the new Marina Bay Sands hotel. Look at what is on top of the three towers. They call that giant surfboard thing the Sands SkyPark. I call it The Great Singapore Ark. I reckon if Singapore ever gets too flooded, we are meant to dash to the Marina Bay Sands and ride that Ark out to sea.
Don’t believe me still? Look at the Esplanade theater next to it. It looks like a pair of durian fruits but I believe the bulbous design is meant to float should flood waters cover Singapore. If you are rich and important, you can ride inside the RSS Esplanade. If you are on economy, you ride on its spikes.
I believe that is also why we built The Pinnacle@Duxton, a public housing project that is made up of seven 50-story towers. You heard me, seven of them. Built by the Housing Development Board in downtown Singapore.
As public housing projects go, these blocks of flats are the crème de la crème of public apartments. You can tell it is premium stuff because it has a ‘@’ in its name. Everyone knows when you use an @ in your name, you are instantly hip, savvy and riding the fast lane on the information superhighway.
When the floods come to Singapore, who will be living @ the safest HDB flats? That’s right, the lucky buggers on the 50th floor of The Pinnacle@Duxton. They will be sipping their champagne@glasses and watching the rest of us lesser mortals trying to swim to the safety of the Marina Bay Sands surfboard.
Waterworld of Asia
Even on Sentosa, our resort island with the newly opened Resorts World casino/hotel/theme park, there are provisions for our future floods in Singapore.
At Universal Studios, there is the Waterworld stunt show. All the boats are there for a reason, folks. I bet they even have Kevin “Dances with Oil Spills” Costner on retainer to give us advice should Singapore flood. I mean, the guy invented an oil spill clean-up machine! Who knows what else he has invented! Maybe he has an anti-flooding machine too.
And don’t the round rafts of the Jurassic Park Rapid Adventure ride look a lot like rescue rafts too?
And what about that Madagascar indoor river boat ride? I suspect the reason it is not open yet is because they need to ensure that the “technically savvy but psychotic penguins” from there, can also operate flood rescue operations.
Soon, children in schools will need to be taught differently. My generation was brought up to believe our government was infallible and all-powerful, able to fight the threat of poverty, the scourge of racial disharmony and the tragedy of drowned Hermès scarves.
This generation will have to learn to be “realistic”.
Then, floods are going to come, children. We won’t be able to stop them all. But we are prepared. We shall face the flood waters with the Marina Bay Sands Surfboard in one hand and a slightly wet but discounted Birkin in the other. And together, we will deal with Third World floods OUR way, the First World way.