Khairil Anwar Makktom
Deputy General Manager, Marina Barrage
As the Deputy General Manager of Marina Barrage, Khairil Anwar Makktom has come a long way since joining PUB 12 years ago. He started off as an engineer managing the construction of sewers, water pipes and drainage infrastructure, before being posted to Marina Barrage in 2011 as the engineer in charge of Barrage Operations, overseeing flood control and general safety and security at Marina Barrage.
His daily work focuses on three key areas – the 24/7 flood control function of the Barrage in ensuring the safe and timely flood control operations with a team of shift officers, the rigorous maintenance of flood control equipment with a team of dedicated maintenance officers, and the upkeep of the Marina Reservoir with the maintenance team to ensure it stays clean as a source of water supply and look after the safety of its activity users. Khairil explains that in order to perform these tasks efficiently, very tight coordination and integration with the various teams at Marina Barrage is needed.
Since its inception as Singapore’s fifteenth reservoir, Marina Barrage serves three different roles and functions. Primarily, the Barrage’s function is to provide 24/7 flood control to alleviate flooding in low-lying city areas. By means of its nine identical crest gates and seven giant pumps, the Barrage manages rainfall from its 10,000 ha catchment area to minimise potential flooding. When it rains heavily during low tide, the crest gates can be opened to release excess storm water into the sea. However, when it rains heavily during high tide, the drainage pumps will be activated instead to pump the water out.
Other than serving as a flood control facility, Marina Reservoir at the Barrage also provides a source of water supply, increasing Singapore’s water catchment from half to two-thirds of the island’s land area. Lastly, the strategic waterfront location also makes the Barrage and its reservoir an ideal venue for various recreational activities from kite-flying to water activities such as kayaking, sailing and dragon boating all year round.
On the challenges faced throughout the 7 years in his job, Khairil shares that as the Barrage is a 24/7 operational flood control facility, there is a constant need to be alert and respond timely to weather changes all the time. Being the first reservoir in Singapore’s city centre, it is the most densely populated and urbanised catchment, and hence keeping the reservoir clean is also no mean feat. “We need to constantly remind everyone not to pollute drains, canals and waterways. There are still many who are not aware that any litter thrown on the ground can be washed into our waterways during rain. A drain choked with litter may not only result in flash floods (as the water cannot be drained away fast enough), but can also lead to a reservoir filled with garbage if the litter is not trapped upstream or cleaned up in time. As the Marina Reservoir is a popular water spot for various water and recreational activities, driving home this point is all the more important. “says Khairil
Noting that the Marina Barrage is a popular spot for visitors, Khairil explains that other than technical skills, his team also has to learn how to manage large crowds especially in the weekends, holidays or when there are events. To improve service standards, Khairil and his team has also been leveraging on technology such as deploying more sensors to understand visitor patterns, as well as more CCTVs and higher visibility signages throughout the facility.
The Marina Barrage was officially opened on 31 October 2008, and has welcomed over 16 million people since then. Khairil personally thinks that “many people are drawn to Marina Barrage’s unique combination of educational and recreational features. Marina Barrage is really a showcase of urban water management and environmental sustainability. Besides learning how this mammoth facility help to prevent floods and create a freshwater reservoir for water supply, at the Sustainable Singapore Gallery, they also gain a holistic picture of how Singapore is coping with climate change and developing as an environmentally sustainable city. It is also a great lifestyle attraction, and the green roof is one of the best spots in town to take in our stunning city skyline – all these while having picnics, flying kites or simply relaxing on the green roof.”
Senior Manager, Marina Barrage
Having joined the Marina Barrage team since its opening in 2008, Winnie Tan is no stranger to the events that happen around the barrage. Over the years, Marina Barrage evolved to become a popular lifestyle attraction, drawing crowds of locals and tourists in hordes.
One challenge that her team faced was the need to balance public needs and engineering demands. As a water facility, there was a need to keep the area safe and secure. However, as Marina Barrage was also a lifestyle attraction, this meant that it had to remain accessible to the public too. After several trial and errors, Winnie and her team managed to fine-tune processes on public engagement, and made use of technologies to reduce public inconvenience as much as possible.
Winnie shares that the most fulfilling part of her job is to be able to impart knowledge on Singapore’s water story to the world and create lasting memories for people. One of the most memorable event for Winnie would be hosting high level foreign delegates visiting the Barrage, such as former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon. Winnie also fondly recalls the first National Day Celebrations at the Barrage, and the SG50 performance by the Black Knights that caused a traffic standstill on the roads leading to the Barrage.
As the Senior Manager where she overlooks events, facility maintenance and visitor experience, Winnie has great aspirations for the Marina Barrage. With the launch of the newly revamped Sustainable Singapore Gallery, Winnie believes that it will be one of the many methods to reach out to the next generation on the topic of sustainability, and inculcate a greater appreciation for Singapore’s water ecosystem and infrastructure.
“Through the programmes and events that we have organised, I hope people visiting the Barrage can understand its three benefits – Flood Control, Water Supply and Lifestyle, and more importantly, that they too have a role to play in Singapore’s sustainability story.”
Ng Rui Qiang
Engineer, Catchment & Waterways Department
As a Civil Engineering graduate, Ng Rui Qiang always had an interest in buildings and structures. To Rui Qiang, cities are “just like the human body, where utility services are the veins and arteries and buildings are the muscles and bones.”
Rui Qiang was part of the team involved in the construction of the Stamford Diversion Canal (SDC) and Stamford Detention Tank (SDT). These major drainage projects are examples of how PUB look for practical solutions to solve our drainage problems.
Unlike typical drainage construction projects, the SDC cannot be constructed using conventional method of cut and cover as it is sited in a densely built-up area. It was also not feasible to divert the roads and utility services for the construction due to the space constraint. To solve this problem, a tunnel boring machine was used to construct a pair of 1km long shallow tunnels that weave underground while maintaining free-flowing traffic on the roads above.
Tunnel Boring Machine
Engineers inside the Tunnel Boring Machine preparing to install tunnel segments
The SDC tunnels are one of the shallowest large diameter tunnels in Singapore, with some areas a mere four metres underground. Constructing such shallow tunnels meant that engineers such as Rui Qiang and site supervision staff had to keep close monitoring of the work to ensure the tunnel parameters are maintained while tunnelling works proceed 24/7.
“Technology enabled us to monitor live readings of the tunnelling parameters closely through any internet device. This allow us to be aware of potential dangers and resolve any issues that may arise quickly,” shared Rui Qiang.
Rui Qiang and engineer inspecting ongoing works inside the Stamford Diversion Canal
Rui Qiang and engineer inspecting ongoing works inside the Stamford Diversion Canal
With the completion of the SDC, excess stormwater can be diverted to the Singapore River and away from the existing Stamford Canal along Orchard Road. This enhances flood protection in the Orchard Road Area.
Rui Qiang shares that the greatest takeaway from this project was knowing that “every time we experience intense rain in the Orchard area, we know that the SDC and SDT are working to keep flooding at bay.”
Ahmad Zaki Bin Salleh
Senior Engineer, Catchment & Waterways Department
Senior Engineer Ahmad Zaki Bin Salleh was one of the key engineers involved in the process of planning and construction of the Stamford Detention Tank (SDT) and the Stamford Diversion Canal (SDC). The SDT and SDC are two major drainage projects that were officially opened by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, at a ceremony held on 28 Sep.
Ahmad Zaki is glad to have played a part in the completion of these two drainage projects that were designed to enhance flood protection in the Orchard Road areas. As an Environmental Engineering graduate, Ahmad Zaki was always fascinated with how engineers can change or control the environment to make them habitable. Joining the Drainage Construction division has allowed him to pursue his interest in building stormwater structures, and now he has completed two massive stormwater structures.
Progress discussion on the construction of Stamford Diversion Canal
Ahmad Zaki and his colleague monitoring the construction works in Stamford Diversion Canal
Constructing the SDT was not an easy task, shared Ahmad Zaki. During the process of excavation, the team of engineers encountered rocks which could not be removed with an excavator and breaker. Proceeding with works was challenging as there were a lot of factors to consider.
"The use of explosives to blast the hard rocks risk sudden soil settlement that could have affected the structural integrity of nearby buildings. We had to ensure that the necessary onsite measures such as instrumentation monitoring and sufficient soil overburden, as well as protective explosive blankets, were put in place to maintain the structural integrity of nearby buildings and the detention tank. The entire process took about 3 months to prepare and the blasting took 2 weeks to complete," shared Ahmad Zaki.
One other challenge that Ahmad Zaki and his team faced was the fact that they were working in very close proximity to other agencies' construction works such as the ongoing Thomson East Coast Line. "As a portion of our tunnelling works were criss-crossing with LTA's tunnels, in order to overcome this, close coordination and monitoring were required with LTA and their contractors on this."
Ahmad Zaki also shared that the team implemented top down construction method to excavate approximately 130,000 cubic metres of soil to construct the detention tank. This method of construction allowed coach buses and cars to travel above while works are ongoing underground.
Base level of Stamford Detention Tank
Ahmad Zaki and his colleague inspecting the Stamford Detention pumps pipes
Despite of all of the challenges, Ahmad Zaki said "seeing the end result made everything worth it." On what he enjoys most about these projects, Ahmad Zaki shared that "it is most satisfying to be able to see storm-water entering both the completed Stamford Diversion Canal and Stamford Detention Tank. The culmination of efforts from PUB project team and our Partners who has worked tirelessly over the period of 4 years should also not be understated. Also, I feel proud of the work that we do in PUB with the holistic Source, Pathway and Receptor approach to improve the drainage system in Singapore. With these two solutions (SDC & SDT), our famous shopping belt Orchard Road are better protected against floods."
Mohd Rizdwan Yunos
Assistant Engineer, Catchment & Waterways Department
“Interesting” – Catchment and Waterways (CW) officer Mohd Rizdwan Yunos proudly describes his job as “doing things that people don’t usually get to try”. This would include taking a boat out around the Serangoon reservoir every morning to do surveillance patrol and check for the raw water quality. Weekly samples are taken and data readings collected from the multimeter are sent to PUB’s Water Quality Office (WQO) for further analysis. Besides this, Ridzwan also frequently patrols the reservoir for illegal fishing activities or acts of vandalism.
Anticipating unexpected queries from the public, especially at night, about oil spills or fishkills are all part of what he faces almost on a daily basis. However, Rizdwan enjoys attending to the public queries and feels a great sense of achievement when he is able to provide satisfactory replies to their questions. The dynamic work environment ensures that Rizdwan and his team are always alert and kept updated on latest findings so that they are able to give informed responses to the public queries.
Rizdwan shares that he takes great pride in his work because he plays a part in maintaining the water quality in the reservoir, hence ensuring a safe and continuous water supply for Singaporeans. “Being able to educate the public about the reservoir and what we do to maintain the cleanliness of the reservoir gives me great satisfaction and drives me to constantly do better.”
Cheong Xin Ling
Plant Manager, Water Supply Plant
“Challenging” – As the Plant Manager, Water Supply Plant (WSP) officer Cheong Xin Ling oversees operations and maintenance of Bedok and Pulau Tekong Waterworks. At the waterworks, the raw reservoir water is treated, filtered and disinfected to free the water of harmful bacteria, making it clear, sparkling and safe for consumption. Managing the waterworks is challenging yet interesting, and every single day is a learning process for her. Besides analysing water quality data and trends to ensure safe drinking water, Xin Ling also works closely with the maintenance team to ensure the process equipment are in good working condition. She also frequently conducts safety checks and supervises workers to ensure a safe working environment.
Xin Ling shared that her interest in the water industry was sparked in 2002 when NEWater was introduced as a safe and sustainable source of water for Singapore. As a chemical engineering graduate, she was interested to learn more about the NEWater treatment process and the chemistry behind it.
When asked what drives her to do better at work, Xin Ling reveals that she feels proud to be part of the team that works behind the scene to supply potable drinking water. Ensuring that Singaporeans can “drink water straight from the tap” is something which gives her team great satisfaction and pushes them to constantly strive to improve work processes.
Wong Lei Lei
Senior Engineer, Water Supply (Network) Department
"Exciting" – Water Supply Network (WSN) officer Wong Lei Lei shared that she finds her work exciting because she encounters different challenges every day, which requires her to use varied skillsets to tackle these problems.
The distribution network is a key node in the water supply system, and ensuring that the network runs smoothly like clockwork to deliver a clean and continuous supply of water to the customers 24/7 is paramount for Lei Lei.
At the frontline of ensuring minimal water disruption to Singaporeans, a day's work includes prioritizing feedback on water quality, pressure, pipe leaks, and attending to those which require attention urgently. Her team also relies on smart sensors installed within the water supply network that monitor parameters such as water pressure, flow and quality to better understand the network's health.
Lei Lei also studies ways to enhance the water supply network on a regular basis so that the network is more robust and maintenance can be carried out on the network with minimal disruption to the customers.
Lei Lei shares that her most memorable workdays are when "work stretches past wee hours", as a lot of work involving pipeline isolation is done at night to minimize disruptions, and the team works hard together to resolve water supply issues. Besides the day to day operational work, Lei Lei derives immense satisfaction when she is able to resolve issues for customers so that Singaporeans continue to enjoy a safe and continuous water supply straight from their taps.
Engineer, Water Supply (Network) Department
"Meaningful" – was how Water Supply Network (WSN) officer Zhafri Shah described a day's work in PUB. Studying environmental engineering in National University of Singapore sparked his interest in the water industry, and he was keen to play a part in ensuring continuous good quality water supply for Singapore .
"There is never a day that is the same", says Zhafri Shah of the past eight months that he has been in his role. His job includes planning, developing, reviewing and managing the regulatory framework, legislative instruments and enforcement regimes for clean water supply in Singapore, as well as meeting consultants, engineers, architects and licensed plumbers (LPs) to clarify PUB's requirements on the maintenance and security of water storage tanks. This is important as the water storage tank serves an important purpose to our HDB flats, supplying even-pressured water to units on level 5 and above, hence ensuring clean water is readily available to residents.
To ensure that water storage tanks are fit and safe for the storage of potable water, Zhafri Shah and his team also conduct routine site audits, where they evaluate cases of non-compliance and put into place enforcement action to prevent repeat offenders. With over 18,000 buildings with 70,000 water storage tanks in Singapore's high rise buildings, Zhafri Shah takes his work very seriously as they are the last mile of the water distribution system before it reaches the customers. As a customer himself, Zhafri Shah is able to relate to the importance of water security. "My job is impactful because it helps ensures good quality water to the public. I hope to continue instilling in the young that water is a precious resource that we should treasure."
Chemist, Water Quality Department
"Ever-Ready" – Water Quality Department (WQD) Manjun Tay describes her team as having to be alert 24/7 to carry out prompt investigations on water quality issues when needed. As a chemist, Manjun is responsible for water quality testing, where she analyses water samples collected from source to tap – including reservoir, sea, river, treated water, NEWater and desalinated water. Besides water quality testing, Manjun's team perform calibration and quality checks on analytical instruments to ensure data accuracy and reliability. By measuring test parameters such as pH, conductivity and turbidity, she monitors the trend of water quality of each water matrix and highlights anomalies to PUB's operations departments. This comprehensive water quality management programme helps to ensure that Singapore's tap water is well within World health Organisation (WHO) standards.
Never one to settle, Manjun and her team worked together with an external vendor to develop a new integration system that improves work productivity and effectiveness of water testing. The Automated Laboratory System (ALS) was introduced at the end of 2017 to reduce manpower, human error and manual testing time while ensuring data accuracy and reproducibility, hence protecting the integrity of the water samples.
When asked what is her greatest satisfaction at work, Manjun feels blessed that she is playing a big role in safeguarding Singapore's water supply, and highlighted that her recent overseas trips to less developed countries where water is very scarce and not safe for drinking makes her appreciate her work more. "I feel proud when I see the public and visitors feel safe drinking our water straight from our taps."