Part of Bukit Timah Rd still closed due to canal cave-in
Repairs ongoing; LTA not saying if 'cavities' caused by MRT works nearby
One of two lanes along Bukit Timah Road that had to be closed to traffic after a nearby drain embankment caved in on Tuesday remains shut to traffic.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) had reopened that rightmost lane on Bukit Timah Road towards Woodlands Road to traffic at 6.30pm on Thursday, but had to seal it again at 7.30pm.
A spokesman said LTA staff had thought that they could continue repair works on the side after opening the lane, but decided to close it again for safety reasons.
Equipment for repairs will be placed on that lane, which will remain closed for the next few days.
On Tuesday night, the LTA had sealed two lanes spanning a 25m stretch of the road, after a nearby drain embankment along the canal caved in.
An LTA spokesman had said grouting works had been underway since 10pm on Tuesday, shortly after the 'cavities' were discovered.
The two-lane closure on a four-lane road, near Clementi Road, led to heavy and slow-moving traffic outside King Albert Park on Wednesday.
It is not clear what caused the section of the canal to collapse, but the LTA could not comment on whether it was related to construction of the Downtown Line nearby, or what might have led to it.
The Downtown Line Stage 2, which will run from Bukit Panjang to Bugis, is slated for completion in 2015.
Construction of the MRT line was slightly delayed last year, after residents in Maplewoods Condominium protested against having a launch shaft for tunnelling works sited right outside their compound. When completed, the King Albert Park MRT station will be located right beside the condo.
At around 11pm on Thursday, the rightmost lane of Bukit Timah Road remained closed to traffic. A portion of one lane on Dunearn Road was closed as well to accommodate a crane that was unloading steel girdles to reinforce the side of the canal.
A Cisco van was parked behind the sealed-off lane on Bukit Timah Road, and Cisco staff were there to manage traffic.
Logistics coordinator Frederick Kam said traffic flow last night had improved slightly compared to Tuesday night.
The 24-year-old was at the McDonald's outlet at King Albert Park with his friends on both nights.
Other people at the fast-food chain said they were not aware of the cave-in along the canal, as the situation seemed orderly and it seemed like routine road works.
ROYSTON SIM, LIM YAN LIANG
Midges sour festive Chinese New Year mood in Bedok
PUB, NEA stepping up efforts to control population of insects
By Janice Tai , Peter Wong
Bedok Reservoir resident Nigel Gette is not usually a religious person, but he is stocking up on incense sticks this Chinese New Year.
Over the past month, his family has been placing sticks of incense around the house to keep midges, which have been plaguing residents of the area, at bay.
'Our guests may not like it, but there's no choice. If the situation gets worse, we may have to hold our reunion dinner in a relative's house,' said the 18-year-old student.
Other residents near the reservoir are similarly concerned that the infestation may dampen the festive mood, as the early Chinese New Year coincides with the usual annual visitation of the insects.
Since the start of the year, the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council has received more than 100 complaints about the tiny green and blue flies.
Aljunied GRC MP Low Thia Khiang said he has been visiting the affected area and is looking into the problem. However, he noted that according to feedback from residents, this year's infestation is not as serious as last year's.
Meanwhile, national water agency PUB, together with the National Environment Agency (NEA), is stepping up measures to monitor and control the population of midges after an increase in breeding was detected last month. A biological larvicide is now applied to the area more frequently - twice a day, compared to three times a week previously.
Algae, which the larvae of the midges feed on, is also being removed from rocks daily.
The PUB has commissioned a study by insect experts from the National University of Singapore, in a bid to identify longer-term solutions to the problems. The experts will work with entomologists from the NEA's Environmental Health Institute to review the current measures taken.
One of the world's foremost authorities on midges, Professor Peter Cranston, will also be flown in next month to speak on possible methods to keep the pests under control.
When contacted, Prof Cranston, who teaches at the University of California, Davis, said one possible reason for the scale of the infestation here is the onset of heavy rain, which washes nutrients from the soil into the reservoir. This in turn causes the algae in them to bloom, boosting the number of midges as their larvae feed on algae.
'What is so short-sighted is that it seems no one has been monitoring nutrients in the water, algal densities and midge numbers to identify what exactly is going on in Singapore. Without this data, it is educated guesswork,' he said.
Meanwhile, residents have come up with various creative ways to mitigate the problem.
Sixty-year-old Irene Lim has been hanging up a 2m-long patchwork quilt, which has been soaked in water, along her corridor every day - a homemade version of a sticky trap which stalls the midges that fly into it.
Her door and four windows are also covered with netting to keep the unwanted pests out.
'The netting spoils the festive atmosphere and doesn't make my house look very presentable,' she said. 'It also makes the house very stuffy, but... it can keep out about half the number of midges that would otherwise come in and disturb my guests.'
Mr Chew She Bee said he has got used to cooking and bathing without the lights on, as the midges often swarm around fluorescent lights.
'That's still all right - what's irritating is that they get into my nostrils, and it's really uncomfortable,' said the 60-year-old salesman.
The insect explosion has also attracted large numbers of swifts, which feed on the insects, to the area. Bird droppings have become the new bugbear for some of the residents.
The infestation has hit eateries hard, and some stallholders lament that business has been down by around 30 to 50 per cent.
A Chinese restaurant, Super Lucky Restaurant, has not only had to close two hours earlier every day for the past three weeks - as the insects proliferate in the evening hours - but it also does not charge its customers for their meals should the flies land in their food.
For staff at the Mixed Vegetable Rice Stall at the Block 739 coffee shop in Bedok Reservoir, cooking at night has been a hassle.
'We have to stop all cooking at 6pm to avoid the midges. Sometimes, the customers find them in their food but we tell them that it can't be helped,' said stall assistant Kim Wong.
Copyright © 2011 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.