Wednesday, April 04, 2012

PUB: Throwing money down the drain

30 Mar 2012

To: Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
cc: Dr Yaacob Ibrahim

Seven years ago in 2005, I started a blog,, to help NEA (then under Dr Yaacob as MEWR Minister) in identifying mosquito-breeding sites so that swift action can be taken to eradicate dengue which was
becoming pandemic then (see Straits Times article attached below, "Man starts blog to track mosquito sites", ST, Aug 17 2005).

Some of the main culprits that contributed to these breeding sites were choked drains as numerous spots were identified and photographed and then uploaded onto the blog.

It has been 7 years but the problem of choked drains remains. But instead of dengue, we now have floods!

In 2005, there was another problem: some of these choked drains/breeding spots were under the purview of NEA, some PUB, yet others under LTA, ... and Town Councils, etc... hence, the classical "Everybody thought that Somebody was attending to the problem but Nobody ended up doing it".

I fuly agree with another blogger, Phillip Ang ("PUB: Throwing money down the drain", theonlinecitizen, Mar 30, 2012- attached):

No amount of money (or Engineering?) will solve the flooding problem here in Singapore if the drains are not properly maintained and remain choked!



PUB: Throwing money down the drain

Posted by theonlinecitizen on March 30, 2012 3 Comments
~ By Phillip Ang ~

I understand PUB's predicament as a result of inclement weather but totally disagree with the planned usage of $750 million for upgrading. After having submitted numerous feedback reports on the state of our drainage system, there has been no assurance as to my emphasis on the need for proper maintenance, and the PUB has yet to take the necessary steps to ensure drainage inlets are free from blockage.
I am a keen observer and travel to different parts of Singapore, and my recent observations seem to suggest that the replies from PUB has not been followed with concrete action.
Along Dunearn Road and other places, many drainage inlets were observed to be choked with so much hardened sand that there is no more room for leaves to pass through.
Meanwhile, closer to my home, it is not uncommon to see such 'green' gratings.
And along East Coast Road, there is more of the same.
All these examples and thousands more like them resulted from months and years of neglect. The causes could be insufficient budget allocated to get things properly done, foreign workers who have been overworked by money-minded contractors and civil servants who are not in touch with the reality on the ground.
The government must conduct its own checks through an independent third party as it has been status quo with PUB for too long. With some 30,000 grassroots leaders vounteering their time for various initiatives, this could be executed without much complexity. Students on vacation are another alternative and their contribution and effort could be recognised through Community Involvement Programme (CIP) points. Motorists caught in jams could take note through casual observation and filter the feedback back to the authority, as could pedestrians.
It is prudent to note that existing drainage inlets complement new ones being installed, and installing swanky new drains without maintenance of the existing drainage network, is simply throwing the money down the proverbial drain. For the entire system to function smoothly, blockage has to be eliminated or minimised first. Unfortunately, PUB has been unable to ensure this even after much feedback.


Man starts blog to track mosquito sites

He e-mails NEA with photos of any potential breeding ground he spots

By Lee Hui Chieh
Aug 17, 2005
The Straits Times
CONCERNED by the rise in the number of dengue cases here, a man has begun a weblog posting pictures of clogged drains in an effort to tell the authorities where to take action.
Mr Jeffrey Ho, 51, a director of a financial services company, started about three weeks ago.
He said: 'I don't know if enough is being done. The National Environment Agency has a responsibility, but so do all of us - for our own homes and outside. The NEA can't be expected to be everywhere all the time.'

Fighting the mosquito menace has been almost an obsession for the father of two since his Newton condominium was plagued by the insects for a few months about two years ago.
One night during that period, his eight-year-old daughter ended up with more than 10 bites on her arms and legs.
Since then, Mr Ho has called NEA officials regularly to report problematic sites. He was inspired to set up his blog after reading about the success of similar efforts in raising awareness on other issues.
Now, whenever he sees a drain choked with litter or leaves, he whips out his mobile phone, snaps a picture of it and makes a note of its location. He then updates his blog and sends an e-mail with the picture and location of the drain to the NEA.
So far, officials have been prompt in replying to his feedback, clearing the drains and reporting investigation results, which he then posts on his blog.
Yesterday, the NEA said it welcomed proactive efforts by the public to fight dengue and urged people to contact it directly to report not just drains, but any suspected mosquito breeding ground.
Of the 2,800 calls it receives every week, about 430 concern mosquito problems.
The NEA cautioned against placing too much emphasis on drains rather than homes. Its investigations show that 75 per cent of mosquitoes found breeding in drains belong to the Culex species, while just 25 per cent are the dengue-carrying Aedes variety.
Of areas found breeding Aedes mosquitoes, drains make up just 6 per cent.
By comparison, homes make up 55 per cent of Aedes breeding sites, with most of the mosquitoes found breeding indoors in bamboo pole holders, flowerpots and pails.
Most of the remaining breeding areas are in other HDB common properties maintained by town councils, such as rooftops and bin centres.
The NEA is especially concerned with home breeding, said the head of operations of its environmental health department Dalson Chung, because the more dangerous sub-species of the Aedes mosquito is usually bred indoors.
This sub-species has more potential to spread infection, as it bites multiple times during a feeding session, while the outdoor-bred sub-species usually bites just once.
Still, Mr Ho said: 'Even Culex mosquitoes can be a nuisance. If my blog makes lives better for people, then it's good enough.'

NEA site checks up 10 per cent
THE National Environment Agency has increased its mosquito breeding ground checks by 10 per cent this year, and hired 160 pest control workers to help its own force of 140 officers further intensify such checks.
A total of 6,774 cases of dengue fever were reported in the first seven months of this year, more than double the 3,219 cases in the same period last year.
The numbers continue to climb, due to hotter weather and a switch last year in the dominant strain of dengue virus.
There are four main strains of dengue virus, all of which will become dominant at some point in time. Patients infected by one strain develop an immunity to it after they recover, but are still vulnerable to the other strains.
Every one to three years, for unknown reasons, another strain becomes dominant, and many succumb to it.
The switch in dominant strain led to an unusually large number of cases in the usually quiet months of January and February, when 2,207 dengue fever cases were reported, compared to 624 last year.

Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.

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