Our Water Heroes: Khairil Anwar Makktom
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.”
By Jaslynn Yeo