Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dam(n) these silly ideas...

Syu Ying Kwok just doesn't get it, does he?

I was quite pleased to see that my reply to his letter proposing the creation of a giant freshwater reservoir by damming up the sea around Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong and Changi has been published.

However, to my chagrin, it did not take him long to reply to my letter, in the online comments. And his wordy reply simply shows that he still doesn't understand the realities of the situation.
Tekong-Ubin reservoir is conceived as an idea to retain precious fresh water for Singapore’s future needs. I fully agreed that educating our people to save the precious little fresh water is one very important aspect for water independence. Yet even when everyone is able to use only as much as they need, Singapore still needs to find new source of water for our children and future generation, including you.

If build, water inside the Tekong Ubin reservoir will not be pump dry and fill with fresh water (this is silly and wasteful). Estuaries from the entire north east part of Singapore, including Tekong, Ubin Island and the entire Changi Airport area, will serve as a water catchment area. Fresh rain water from these areas will be diverted into this new reservoir.

This entire area easily represents more than 20% of land in Singapore and we have many man made canals and even other canals as source of fresh water. Fresh water from Sungei Pungol, Sungei Serangoon, Sungei Tampines and even Sungei Seletar can be diverted into this reservoir.

With our heavy annual rainfall, over time the inflow of fresh water will reduce the salinity of this reservoir until we have fresh consumable water.

Pedra Branca will be resolve over time. Singapore will let international law decide on areas of dispute. Our Malaysian neighbors will in the future realize that it will benefit more for both countries to work together. It is up to you and future generations of Singaporeans and Malaysians to work together.

The dams if built will be within our own territorial waters and connected to our own islands. Singapore is not a country that will infringe on others legal territory.

The water between Singapore, Tekong and Ubin belongs to Singapore, it is not international territory. Ships and boats can move in and out of Sembawang Shipyard and southern tip of Malaysia thru the passage way north of Tekong and Ubin Island. Maritime operations will not be hindered.

Unknown to many Singaporeans, Singapore has one of the best civil works authority in the world. The number of flooding incident in Singapore is so small that when it happens, it becomes a spectacle. Those with experience living in other low lying coastal city, like Jakarta and even Johore will tell you how luck we are. Thus I have utmost confidence on them to make it proper if such dams were to be built.

There is a very good reason why Singapore should pursue the less costly alternative for fresh water. Yes we have desalination plants and reverse-osmosis technology can be use to get fresh water. But these are costly methods because both are energy and resource intensive. For each litre of water from desalination plant, we will have to burn more fossil fuel in generating enough energy for desalination, thus we will put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere indirectly.

To put it simply, the carbon foot print for each litre of water from desalination is many times more than that from a reservoir. Indirectly, Singapore will destroy more of mother nature using desalination.

The cost saving by using a reservoir, which will be very significant in the long run when compared to desalination, can be used to buy more land of virgin rain forest and will help even more on our efforts to save our planet.

Ultimately, Tekong Ubin reservoir is only a suggestion for our government to consider. Knowing our Government, a very extensive study will be done before a project like this, which is very large and complex is even considered. You must have faith in our Government to do the correct thing after weighing all the pros and cons. Chek Jawa would have been destroyed long ago if our Minister has not considered our people’s opinion. What ever the decision by our Government, Singaporean must also know that we must take collective interest of everyone and not just interest of our own.

Syu Ying Kwok.

Posted by: IIVII at Tue Apr 22 09:31:50 SGT 2008

To be honest, I simply do not have the time and energy to deal with generating a rebuttal to this. Especially when I'm already so exhausted, and saddled with quite a lot of work and other commitments.

In any case, November helped me out by replying:
Re: Mr Syu's latest reply

1) Based on expert advise from people who work on the marina barrage, this is how it works: first you need to flush out all the salt water during low tide and then let let fresh water fill it up. However, this is not a one time process. It requires long period of time before the water is 100% consumable. While it's not consumable, we can only use it for non-portable uses. So yes, you MUST "pump" out all the water or at least be able to flush it out. You cannot have a single bit of salt water inside the reservoir before you can actually consume it. You don't need to build pumps as Mr Kwan suggested but you definitely must remove all water before introducing freshwater.

2) Those estuaries you mentioned are already going to be dammed up. Furthermore, would you want heavy industries and airports to form the catchment of which your water comes from? Chemicals and pollutants infiltrate through the ground and ends up in your waterbodies.

3) The straits of Johor does not belong to Singapore. There is an international boundary in the middle of the straits. Furthermore, the reason why the shipping lane is between Singapore-Ubin is because the channel there is deeper. Deep channels are required for ships to pass through. The Johor-Ubin waters are too shallow!

4) Would the economic and environmental cost for building the reservoir be even more than the carbon footprint of desalinization? What is more important?

Posted by: micamonkey at Tue Apr 22 14:58:14 SGT 2008

Someone else chimed in. Props to you, whoever you are:
I disagree with Mr(s). Syu. His proposal, if realized, will be yet another catalyst for geopolitical tension between Malaysia and Singapore. The proposed reservoir will seal up the navigable channel of the eastern Johor Straits, effectively blocking access to Pasir Gudang Port. This will be a rallying point for more Singapore bashing. Mr. Syu also seems to advocating for the mass-destruction of coastal and island ecological systems of Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong and Changi. Hence I am not sure as to how exactly the carbon footprint of his proposal can be considered beneficial. In addition, using Marina Bay reservoir as a gauge, it will probably take far longer for the water in the proposed reservoir to be drinkable given the natural saline dilution approach Mr. Syu is suggesting(which is not really the approach used in creating the Marina reservoir) that . We may be looking at a timeframe in excess of 100 years. During this time, new technologies will probably arise to negate the rationale for Mr. Syu's idea. A more workable idea would be the conversion of Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon into reservoirs. Mr. Syu's proposal is probably well-meaning but it inherently holds many negative points that will make it impossible for any rational policy-maker to accept it.

Posted by: asgard0211 at Tue Apr 22 15:07:09 SGT 2008

I'll look at Syu Ying Kwok's comment at a later date, though I'm not sure exactly what's his point. It's tempting to just dismiss it as the rantings of a deranged lunatic, though to be fair, I'd like to really sit down and analyse his comment, and see where we agree and where we differ.

In any case, the letter-writing arm of the Naked Hermit Crabs is getting a shot in the arm. With people like Syu Ying Kwok, who come up with such preposterous and excremental ideas, and who may find gullible audiences in the mass media, this is another battlefield for us, to engage and educate the general public.