The Nation



Adverse court ruling could sink govt's water plans

THE Bt350-billion water and flood management scheme could be overthrown and the contractors might not be able to sign contracts to run the mega-project if the government loses its case in the Supreme Administrative Court next month, an environmental activist said.

Stop Global Warming Association president Srisuwan Janya said the court would hold its first hearing on January 9. It will hear testimony from the association as a plaintiff, and from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and eight other defendants over the alleged wrongful procedure they have used to run the mega-project so far.

The association filed a lawsuit with the Central Administrative Court, which later announced its verdict ordering the government to hold forums to hear opinions of the public and those affected by the schemes' construction projects.

Then the association filed an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court asking the court to invalidate the government's water management master plan on grounds it violated the Constitution's public-participation principle.

The association also claimed the government might have violated the Constitution's Articles 57(2) and 67(2), which require it to hold public hearings about the project before implementing the master plan and other construction projects.

Final say

"The government's water and flood management project would be invalid, if the court has the final say that this plan is unlawful," Srisuwan said.

Additionally, the four contractors would not be able to sign the contracts with the government for this project, which was set for February 2014 . The bidding procedure to select the eligible bidders would be restarted, he added.

Srisuwan said he would file another lawsuit with the Central Administrative Court against the government, National Water and Flood Management Office (NWFC), provincial governors involved in the public forums on water and flood management schemes, and related agencies to take responsibility for the budget spent to hold the allegedly unlawful forums.

He would also file a lawsuit against both the Prachin Buri provincial governor and Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi, charging they had changed the sites organised for the public forums and notified locals only three days in advance. According to the Prime Minister's Office regulations, the government should inform locals of any change 14 days beforehand.

Moreover, he found that the government had paid Bt400 in travel allowances for each person to attend the forum. This action would violate the participation principle, he added.

Meanwhile, the Engineering Institute of Thailand (TEI) has suggested the government end this plan and make a new water and flood management master plan, comprising short-, middle- and long-term phases, depending on each project's urgency.

In the short-term phrase, instead of building new dams, the government should implement non-structural work to deal with flooding such as controlling water storage and discharge in four major dams of the Chao Phraya River basin. Moreover, the government should improve its database and information related to water and flood management to properly tackle the flood situation, said Bancha Kwanyeun, a member of TEI's subcommittee on water management.

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