What comes up when the rain comes down? 

Rubbish, trash or garbage, so says many, as the capital residents share pictures of blocked or overflowing  drains and  flooded roads. The rain also exposed our shortcomings as planners and decision makers, as citizens or residents. 

Common sense tells us that drains or storm water drainage systems are to  enable excess water flow smoothly without disruptions to infrastructure, forget getting into basements of houses or businesses. It is not the case in the capital city. A few hours of rain exposes our shortcomings – bad planning, implementation and civic responsibility.

The Hong Kong market incident yesterday is a classic example. The storm water drainage was blocked and water overflowed risking properties around the area. The drain failed to serve the purpose. Apparently, the contractor forgot to clear the  worksite of construction waste including materials used to construct the drain. It blocked the drain. Authorities, it seems, forgot their responsibilities. It needed the late monsoon to remind them of their responsibilities.

The drain will be fixed and everything will be forgotten, until the next heavy downpour. 

Our capital city, which many envisioned to be different from other cities is choked with problems that many cities in the region experienced decades ago. Our advantage as a late developer, many thought, was learning from others’ mistakes. The irony is we are not only repeating the mistakes, but not learning at all. 

It takes more than a municipal authority, a thromde, in our case, in ensuring a safe, clean and a beautiful city. The residents have to play a role. The occasional downpour exposes our lapses. Careless dumping of waste, both degradable and not, in public places including trashing them in the drains, is still a big problem. It is not storm water that is diverting the water. It is the trash – pet bottles, sacks, plastics and debris that is choking the drains.

If we can take care of our trash or dispose of it appropriately, the drains will not be blocked. At the same time, if we have proper and timely services to dispose of waste, people will not use drains and open public spaces to dispose of their waste. There are services, but it needs improvement. 

It calls for bold decisions and strict implementations and monitoring. For instance, we banned plastics, but it is still the main source of non-degradable waste. Littering is a crime, so says the numerous signboards, but it is the biggest problem even as we claim to be one of the cleanest cities. 

The occasional downpour, therefore, is welcomed to remind us of our failings. If we can learn from the recent incidents, we will improve. If we forget after the roads and drains are cleared, we are back to square one.