Saturday, 17 May 2008

Going Underground

Minehead. Credit; is looking to dig itself out of its real estate troubles. I can imagine the meeting:

Official A: Okay Gentlemen, settle down. As you know, Singapore is an island and despite our best efforts at land reclamation, we can't build out much more sideways without sparking an international boundary dispute. The hi-rise factory idea isn't working out. We need a new plan.

Official B: How about building underground? We could claim ownership down to the earth's core.

Official A: Brilliant!

Singapore recently complete a major project to move much of its military ammunition storage into underground rock caverns. Despite the cost, it's worth it to free up the valuable surface land (300 ha) needed to provide a safety buffer zone around the ammo bunkers.

Now, eagle-eyed watchers have spotted a new tender issued to explore the feasibility of other 'underground rock cavern' (URC) facilities:

Singapore is looking at building underground power stations, water reclamation plants, wafer fabs and R&D labs, data centres, warehouses and port and airport logistics centres to free up surface land for other economic uses.

I thought the explosives cache was a good idea and they were sensible enough to say that the bomb storage is under a disused quarry, not housing estates. Well, that's what the claim, anyway. They're also building a petroleum storage facility under Jurong Island for crude oil and oil products like naphtha, condensate and gas oil, which also seems reasonable if only because of the neat symmetry of oil extraction and subsequent storage.

It's a pot pourri of ideas: ammo (dangerous); oil (practical); warehousing (economic); data centres (secure); factories (strange); R&D labs (huh?). Aren't geeky engineers pale enough? Notably, they didn't say what sort of R&D, perhaps it's something ... risky? The concept also puts the Singapore Government in league with some paranoid and sinister people, for example:

  • James Bond super villains had secret, underground facilities.
  • Dictators and military types love bunkers.
  • In Silence of the Lambs, the psychopath held captives in a well dug in the cellar.
  • In the post-apocalyptic Matrix, mankind had retreated underground.
  • Austrian men like holding women in cellars. [what is that all about?]

The English language is full of negative associations with that which is below us: "underworld" (hell), "under-hand" (sneaky), "under the table deal" (corrupt); that was "beneath even you" (contemptible); although ironically "downtown" is not perjorative. Whatever the practical and economic merits of the idea, it puts them in undistinguished company.