Warnings about past mistakes amid lack of detail in Chao Phraya Basin water plan

national September 19, 2017 01:00

By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE NATION

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THE GOVERNMENT should carefully study water-management plans and allow local people to get involved in projects’ review and planning processes, academics have said, warning that otherwise the projects would result in the same problems that troubled previous governments.



The Cabinet today will consider the Bt200-billion water-management plan to prevent flooding and drought in the Chao Phraya River Basin, with many observers expressing worry that such an ambitious plan could repeat the errors of the Bt350-billion project initiated by Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration.

Sitang Pilailar, of Kasetsart University’s Water Resource Engineering Department, urged the government to be transparent and properly study the plan to avoid the same problems that disrupted the previous plan.

It was estimated that the overall budget for the plan would be about Bt200 billion and it would consist of nine projects with the goal of sustainably solving flooding and drought problems in Chao Phraya River Basin within the next six years.

However, the National Water Resource Committee has not disclosed specific details about the plan to date.

Given the lack of information, Sitang said she could not comment on the details, but added that government plans should be properly studied to avoid impacts to people and the environment while ensuring that the money was well spent.

“Judging by the size of the budget of Bt200 billion, this is quite an expensive water-management plan, despite being cheaper than the Yingluck government’s. However, if the plan does not involve comprehensive studies, it will very probably face strong opposition from people, similar to that which the previous government faced,” she said.

She said the government should also consider the connection between projects, as some could solve water-management problems in an area without having to entail other projects with a duplicate purpose, which would result in unnecesary spending.

Meanwhile, Water Resource Department director-general Worasart Aphaiphong, who is also secretary of the National Water Resource Committee, said the proposed budget was just an estimate and the final number could be lower after the completed plan is approved by the Cabinet. Meanwhile, many parts of Thailand have been submerged by floodwaters in the past week due to Tropical Storm Doksuri, with many areas yet to recover.

In Chaiyaphum, water discharged from Lam Patao Dam that flooded the city centre does not show any signs of receding as the water level at the dam still exceeds capacity, forcing authorities to release more water to protect the dam’s structural integrity.

Meanwhile, flooding in Phitsanulok, Phichit and Sukhothai remains serious as the Yom River overflows its banks.

Phitsanulok Irrigation project director Bandit Intha said the water flow in the Yom River in Phrae had reached 1,000 cubic metres per second, a dangerous level for provinces downstream.

People in the three provinces were warned of possible flooding, while authorities tried to divert water to retention areas to minimise flood impacts.

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