Think­ing out­side the box

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By ZHAOXU in Sin­ga­pore zhaoxu@chi­nadaily.com.cn

“For Sin­ga­pore, one of the ma­jor ways to pre­vent flood­ing is to try and re­duce the ‘speed’ of the rain­fall,” said Tan Ying Hao, se­nior man­ager at the Catch­ment & Wa­ter­ways Depart­ment of the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board, un­der the Sin­ga­porean Gov­ern­ment. “This means ex­tend­ing the time it takes for a rain­drop to fall from the sky to the ground. The key words here are ‘in­ter­cep­tion’ and ‘in­fil­tra­tion’.”

Sin­ga­pore is fa­mous for its var­ied plant life, but es­pe­cially rain trees, South Amer­i­can im­ports with gi­ant canopies that re­tain wa­ter. “The trees have cer­tainly done their part in catch­ing rain in the mid­dle of down­pours, but that’s far from enough,” Tan said.

“For the past few years, the gov­ern­ment has been cham­pi­oning the con­struc­tion of rooftop gar­dens and wa­ter tanks, both on rooftops and be­low ground.

In ad­di­tion, the city makes the most of nat­u­ral drainage sys­tems – rivers and streams that chan­nel rain­wa­ter. “Be­fore, we tended to build wa­ter­ways with con­crete banksand­made­them­straight in cer­tain stretches,” he said.

“Now, we re­al­ize that the best way is to al­low these nat­u­ral drains to take their own cour­ses, al­low­ing the wa­ter to re­main in tran­sit for longer.”

Biore­ten­tion swales— long, de­pres­sions or trenches that re­ceive rain­wa­ter runoff and are heav­ily veg­e­tated to slow the move­ment of wa­ter — have been widely im­ple­mented as part of the board’s Beau­ti­ful, Clean Wa­ters Pro­gramme, which aims to trans­form drains, canals and reser­voirs into streams, rivers and lakes.

“It’s a de­sign fea­ture used widely across the is­land. We use small rocks in­stead of con­crete for the bed and plant grasses and shrubs along the chan­nels,” he said.

When he ad­dressed Sin­ga­poreIn­ter­na­tion­alWaterWeek last­month,Thar­manShan­mu­garat­nam, Sin­ga­pore’s deputy prime min­is­ter, urged global pol­icy-mak­ers to “think out­side the­box” when­tack­ling the threat posed by wa­ter.

VIVEK PRAKASH / REUTERS

Pedes­tri­ans walk past sand­bags out­side the Liat Tow­ers shop­ping cen­ter in Sin­ga­pore on July 22, 2010.

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