Experts cast gloom over water plan
Water experts and engineers expressed concern yesterday that the government would not be able to go ahead with its plan to complete the Bt350-billion water-management plan because of mismanagement over the bidding process and environmental hurdles."I am absolutely sure that government's flood- and water-management mega-project will not be completed, as it has not followed the legal process required under the Constitution," said Prasert Povichien of the Thai Hydra Association.
He was speaking at a public forum organised by the Engineering Institute of Thailand (EIT) to hear criticism of the government's water-management plans. More than 50 water experts and engineers attended and commented on the plan to build infrastructure for water resources management and to prevent massive flooding.
Prasert said that under Article 67 of the Constitution, the government must conduct environmental and health impact assessments (EHIAs) for each sub-project under its mega-project and win the acceptance of local people who might be affected by the schemes. However, EHIAs have not been conducted for most of the projects under the Bt350-billion plan or won approval from the authorities, he asserted.
Moreover, most of the projects will not be completed within five years as designated in the terms of reference, because each of them entails huge construction such as floodways and flood-diversion works, which require more than five years to complete, he said.
There is also the need to expropriate land from local people, he added.
EIT president Suwat Chaopricha questioned the government's criteria for selecting the final contractors from those currently qualified for bidding, as it had said that it would only study each contender's technique, time and budget for each of the projects.
"We need criteria that are based on engineering principles in selecting the final contractors. The decision should not be based on the committee's feelings," he said.
Environmentalist Thong-chai Pannasawat wondered who would pay compensation and interest if a contractor had already conducted an environmental impact assessment or EHIA, but was then unable to enter the construction site because of a protest by the local community.
Moreover, he asked which state agencies would sign the contracts.
Subin Pinkhayan, president of the Thai Hydra Association, said it was possible that contenders would have only a month to calculate their bids for the projects, which are to be submitted to the Water and Flood Manage-ment Commission (WFMC) for the final round.
It would also be difficult for the contractors to get bank guarantees within such a limited time scale, he added.
In a bid to alleviate the experts' concerns, Apichart Anukularmphai, chairman of the WFMC's subcommittee for academic and project analysis, insisted that the government would only meet the construction costs for contractors successful in the final round if their EHIA reports |had been approved and their plans had won acceptance from the local community.
"Don't worry that we will get fooled again and have to pay huge compensation to the contractors. I am sure we will not make the same mistakes as past governments, as in the Hopewell rail project and other mega-projects."
Moreover, the WFMC will hire a project management consulting company, an engineering consultant and a project supervisor, he said.