The Sunday Times says

Preventing the scourge of floods

While heavy rain is to be expected during the monsoon season, Monday's intense downpour saw two weeks' worth of rain falling in just four hours. That overwhelmed drains and caused flash floods across eastern Singapore, leaving hundreds of commuters and motorists stranded in nearly knee-high water during the morning rush hour. The flash floods did not last long: from 15 minutes to an hour. However, those caught in the worst of the flooding had stories to tell about having to be rescued and needing to deal with extensive damage to their vehicles. The image of a woman pushing her stalled car through the waters captured the havoc that nature can bring unexpectedly to the ordered ways of life in Singapore.

Notwithstanding the particular fury of Monday's downpour , the flooding does fall into an uneasy pattern. There were floods on 14 days last year, compared with 10 in 2016, and six in 2015. While the figure has dropped from 36 in 2013, long-term trends are worrying.

As early as in January 2012, the Expert Panel on Drainage Design and Flood Protection Measures noted a trend towards both higher rainfall intensity and the frequency of intense rains, based on records gathered over the preceding 30 years. It warned that the trend could place further strain on Singapore's existing drainage infrastructure. "This evidence challenges past assumptions", it pointed out, calling on national water agency PUB to conduct further studies and review its drainage design considerations to account for observed changes in rainfall trends.

The PUB must continue to make drainage works provide a dependable buffer between predictable climate change and sudden flooding, to the extent humanly possible. Citizens, on their part, must hone the instincts of coping, such as by leaving cars at home and avoiding walking though flooded streets, unless strictly necessary.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 14, 2018, with the headline 'Preventing the scourge of floods'. Print Edition | Subscribe