Way clear for water-system overhaul
The government will seek up to Bt350 billion in loans for the overhaul of Thailand's water systems before the end of June.
The budget request finally was given the green light by the Cabinet yesterday.
Government Spokesman Tossaporn Serirak said ministers had approved Bt301 billion for the implementation of projects for comprehensive water management/ flood prevention.
The Cabinet agreed to the Water and Flood Management Commission's (WFMC) request that Bt8.73 billion be spent on project management for a period of five years.
A royal decree on lending, which was passed last year, authorises the government to seek up to Bt350 billion for these purposes.
Tossaporn yesterday said about Bt10 billion of the Bt350 billion had already been used for flood rehabilitation, and another Bt30.2billion for flood prevention, since the flood crisis hit the country late in 2011.
Following the Cabinet's green light, the WFMC yesterday released the terms of reference for modules of water management/flood prevention for its qualified contenders.
The firms will hold talks with the commission today, with all of them having to submit final plans to the WFMC within 45 days. The WFMC is expected to name the successful bidders for each module on May 16.
The six qualified contenders are Korea Water Resources Corp, Thai-Japanese Joint Venture, ITD-Powerchina Joint Venture, Loxley Joint Venture, Summit STU Joint Venture, and Team Thailand Joint Business Group.
Of the eight modules, six will focus on water management and flood prevention in the Chao Phraya river basin. The first module is for forest rehabilitation and check dams, while the second is for land planning/land use in the basin.
The third module is for agricultural and irrigated land improvement for water-retention areas, and the fourth is for the main river and its embankments. The fifth is for flood-diversion channels, while the sixth is for early warning and a forecast information centre.
The other two modules are for 17 other river basins. The seventh is for forest rehabilitation and check dams, while the eighth is for creating efficient land planning/land use in the basins. Under each module, qualified firms are expected to develop several projects for the WFMC to consider. All six contenders have passed the first round.
The government embarked on the plan to introduce mega-projects for the country's water management/flood prevention after the devastating flooding in 2011, when severe inundation claimed hundreds of lives, submerged seven industrial estates and displaced millions.
Suthat Weesakul, a water expert at the Asian Institute of Technology, yesterday said the government should have listened to the advice of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in planning the flood prevention.
"There is no need to create flood-diversion channels from Chai Nat. It is a waste of money," he said.
Under the fifth module, flood-diversion channels will start from Chai Nat and split into two routes, eastern and western, until they reach the sea in Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon. The two routes will have a combined stretch of between 200 and 300 kilometres.
JICA says Thailand simply needs a 20km flood-diversion channel from Muang Ayutthaya to Bang Sai.
"It's enough to protect industrial areas in Ayutthaya," Suthat added.
As for Bangkok, he said the planned flood-diversion channel would hardly deliver any benefit.