Swift action for Clementi landslide highlights efficient whole-of-Government approach

The ongoing Government action remedying last Friday’s (Sep 2) landslide in Clementi remains swift and united.

Three ministries—the Ministry of National Development (MND), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE)—are now on the job together to arrest this mishap. They have worked round the clock since the landslide, minimising disruptions to resident’s routines and the Ulu Pandan Canal’s water flow—and making their best efforts to ensure that the BTO flat owners get their keys on time.

This timeline lays out the milestones during this whole-of-government response:

Sep 2, Friday:

~1.00am: The slope near the upcoming Clementi Northarc BTO collapses. This landslide topples trees and lamps, sinks part of the BTO construction site and creates a crude soil dam in the Ulu Pandan canal.

Source: Sim Ann Facebook

Early morning: HDB coordinates repair and recovery efforts with agencies including MSE’s PUB and NParks. HDB and Building Construction Authority (BCA) engineers check if nearby buildings remain structurally sound. They are.

11.34am: NParks announces the partial closure of the Ulu Pandan park connector stretch affected by the landslide. This will help joint efforts against potential floods. 

Source: Sim Ann Facebook

12.58pm: PUB deploys Quick Response Team vehicles at locations upstream from the canal. This allows PUB to intervene during potential floods, especially since September will be a stormy month.    [EVB4] 

Afternoon: Slope stabilisation begins, with the HDB’s contractor beginning to build a slim concrete perimeter around it. The digging of a channel that will allow water to flow through the canal also starts.

~ 3pm:  Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann does an on-site survey of the landslide, updating journalists about the immediate measures from different statutory boards across the Government.

“No major injuries,” Senior Minister Sim additionally posted that Friday on Facebook regarding the landslide. “One member of the public sustained minor injuries and is now recovering at home. We wish him a speedy recovery.”

Evening: The concrete perimeter around the slope finishes construction.

Source: Desmond Lee Facebook

Sep 3, Saturday:

Round-the-clock: HDB, NParks and PUB work to repair and recover the slope.

Source: Desmond Lee Facebook

Sep 4, Sunday:

Afternoon: Water now flows through the channel constructed over the weekend. Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim revisits the site alongside Minister for National Development Desmond Lee.

Source: Desmond Lee Facebook

“Safety remains our priority,” says Minister Lee of the recovery process, noting that BCA, HDB and MOM are mutually investigating the slope failure. “We will continue to check the instrument readings deployed within and around the site, to closely monitor structural safety throughout the entire recovery process.”

3.53pm: NParks announces the partial reopening of the Ulu Pandan park connector from Clementi Road to Commonwealth Avenue West. They also announce that NParks, PUB and HDB will jointly maintain the closure of the Boon Lay Way-Clementi Road portion of the park connector near where the landslide happened in the interest of public safety.  

Sep 5, Monday:

Afternoon: PUB distributes floodbags and flood barriers to residents of nearby Sunset Way and Sunset Drive in case of potential floods. PUB also engages the neighbourhood’s building owners in flood protection protocols and increases its Quick Response Team vehicle deployments upstream from the canal.  

A history of effective pivots and inter-Ministry cooperation

The Government’s solution-oriented responses for the national community invariably mean swift and efficient inter-Ministry cooperation. And the response to the Clementi landslide is not new.

For instance, MND worked with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and MSE to conduct PCR tests for Hougang residents during a May 2021 Covid-19 infection spike there.

The latest response also highlights the ability to safely pivot towards new work solutions whenever disruptions arise. For instance, HDB expedited the process of building temporary living quarters on site, firstly reducing the risks of infection for the migrant workers while making sure construction continues.

So even when the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted construction, two-thirds of the BTO projects — that’s 16,000 homes — saw delays of no more than six months. In fact, the HDB gave keys to nearly 15,000 new homeowners in 2021, compared to 13,500 in pre-pandemic 2019. 

As Senior Minister Sim posted on Facebook about the landslide, “Some new owners of units at Clementi NorthArc have asked me if key collection will be affected. For now, HDB sees no reason for delay to key collection beyond what has already been communicated to home owners, the first batch being planned for December.”

Cover photo credit: PUB and Desmond Lee Facebook