EXPERTS have backed the government’s plan to establish a single all-encompassing organisation to combine the efforts of different agencies and oversee the country’s water management policies.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said after the National Water Resource Committee met at Government House yesterday that to improve water management and ensure integrated cooperation between different agencies, the Water Resource Department would be placed under the Office of the Prime Minister and a “National Office of Water Resources” would be established.
The new agency will be in charge of setting overall water management policies and be able to overrule the operations of all relevant agencies such as the Royal Irrigation Department, the Provincial Waterworks Authority and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.
Prayut said he was preparing to use the special powers under Article 44 of the interim charter to permanently relocate the Water Resource Department from the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to the Office of the Prime Minister. The National Council for Peace and Order’s edict on the issue was expected to follow soon.
He added that people had a high expectation that the government would tackle water problems.
Because of the high risks involved, he said, the government would focus on five main water management activities: consumption, agriculture and industry, ecosystems, flood relief and drought relief.
Prominent water expert Hannarong Yaowalers said the new policy was good because it could unlock bureaucratic problems related to water management agencies and improve the efficiency of water management efforts. He added, however, that it still would not guarantee the success of the implementation.
“The establishment of a National Office of Water Resources will make coordination between water management agencies easier and more productive, as we will have an agency to take control on the policy-making and be a single command centre for water management,” Hannarong said.
He added that prior to the decision Thailand had several organisations with duties relating to water management and their tasks often overlapped, causing inefficiency and wasting money. “The new agency will have a higher rank than department level agencies and it can command water management policies across ministerial borders, which will improve our ability in managing water,” he said.
However, Hannarong added that if the structure or the leadership of the new agency fails to operate properly, the problem would not be solved.
Sitang Pilailar, a lecturer at the Water Resources Engineering Department at Kasetsart University, also agreed that the structure of the new organisation would be very important to ensure that it would come up with the right policies for all stakeholders.
“Water management is not only considering aspects of water, it also connects with environmental issues, people’s livelihoods, urban planning and other aspects, so experts on these relevant issues should be in this organisation to make good policy,” Sitang said.
She advised the government to inform the public as soon as possible on the details and structure of the new organisation.
“This agency is a new hope for all of us to tackle the chronic problem of drought and flood, so there will be heavy expectations,” she said.