PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has used special powers under Article 44 of the interim charter to set up a new water management office, has said some areas of the country will have to be sacrificed to prevent other areas from flooding.
Meanwhile, people in designated flood-retention areas said they had had to endure flooding for more than four months without knowing when the waters would recede.
Prayut said yesterday after a Cabinet meeting that the government was concerned about flooding problems in many provinces and had ensured that preparations had been made for the flood season. But he insisted that some areas had to be allocated for water retention to prevent flooding elsewhere.
According to the Royal Irrigation Department (RID), floods are affecting 20 provinces across the country, mainly in the Chao Phraya River Basin in the Northern and Central Region and Chi River Basin in the Northeastern Region.
Prayut said that despite the government’s efforts to prepare for floods, the inundation had persisted due to the changing climate and unexpected heavy rain. “I would like to thank farmers in 12 water-retention fields in the Central Region for receiving floodwater,” he said.
“Some other areas may also be flooded; that is because of the high volume of water. The government is trying its best to prevent floods, but in some areas we cannot do that and we have to let them flood.
“We need to sacrifice some areas in order to protect the rest from flooding. I understand that the flood victims have troubles, but we cannot let all areas be flooded.
“I assure you that there will be compensation for the damage.”
Meanwhile, Penkae Bunkayai from Sena District in Ayutthaya, said she and her mother had been living uncomfortably with flooding for four months, as her neighbourhood was in a floodwater retention area. She added that there had not been any notification from authorities as to when the water would recede.
“The water level only keeps rising. It will only take a few centimetres to reach the highest flood levels of 2011,” Penkae said. “But there is no news from the local authorities about how long we will have to wait until we can live normally on dry land.”
She said many people in her village were senior citizens. Flooding had made transport difficult in and out of the village, which could be dangerous if people needed emergency help. She added that while there had been regular distributions of dry food, what people really needed was drinking water.
“This year’s flood is only a little less severe than the big flood in 2011 and I just hope that we will pass this disaster soon,” she said.
Many provinces in the lower Chao Phraya River Basin have seen rising water levels.
The Chao Phraya Dam water discharge has been increased to 2,700 cubic metres per second, which has caused the water level in Chai Nat, Sing Buri and Angthong to rise by 25 centimetres, and the level in Ayutthaya and further downstream to rise by 20 centimetres.
The water levels in the Tha Chin River, a tributary of Chao Phraya, have also increased, setting off flood alarms in four district of Suphan Buri. In the Northeastern region, Ubonrat Dam has already reduced its water discharge to 45 million cubic metres of water per day, which will relieve flooding in the Chi River Basin.
Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department deputy director-general Kobchai Boonyaorana said authorities were taking care of people in flood-retention areas. Despite the fact that there had so far been no financial compensation for their sacrifice, they would receive funds to repair flood damage, Kobchai said.
“The department, local authorities and the Army are trying our best to ensure that [people] will live as comfortably as possible. We will maintain flood aid distribution at least once every four days. If people in flood-affected areas face any difficulties, they can contact our department directly for help,” Kobchai said.
Government Spokesperson Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the National Council for Peace and Order had exercised its power to set up the National Water Resource Management Office, which would oversee policy to ensure integrated water management.