Commission studies 5 water ministry plans
The Water and Flood Management Commission (WFMC) is studying five proposals for setting up a water ministry that would be tasked with devising a long-term strategy to the country's chronic water problems, but experts are warning not to expect a miracle cure."WFMC chairman Plodprasop Suraswadi is now selecting the most feasible one," Suphot Tovichakchaikul, acting secretary-general of the WFMC, said yesterday.
If the ministry can be set up this year as expected, all water- and flood-related agencies will be transferred to it, Suphot told a seminar titled "The Water Ministry and the Way to Resolve the Country's Flood Problem" held by the Thai Hydrologist Association last week.
The first option, drafted by the Water Resources Department, calls for the proposed water ministry and the country's 25 River Basin Committees to oversee water management across country. The Water Management and Development Department, which will be the operating unit, will work at the regional level to deal with water problems. At the provincial level, the provincial water-management office, river basin subcommittee and local administrative organisations will team up to manage resources in local areas.
The second alternative, prepared by Sanong Chandraninthorn, a former director-general of the Water Resources Department, suggests the proposed ministry comprise a minister's secretarial office, permanent secretary's office, the Planning and Policy Office, Groundwater Resources Department, Water Resources Department, Water Development and Management Department and Provincial Water Management office.
Sanong also proposed that a national water committee be set up to oversee water policy and regulation, along with a national water crisis warning centre, water and agricultural management office, river basin committee and a river basin and tributary committee, to oversee water utilisation and the implementation of the flood-prevention master plan in local areas.
Two more agencies were suggested - a groundwater resources office and a groundwater fund. The office would look after the blueprint for drought prevention and the water supply for industry.
According to this proposal, if the ministry cannot be set up, a water agency should be established instead with three departments - water resources, groundwater resources, and water development and management - to be the main bodies to manage water resources. This agency would come under the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.
The third option would see a water ministry comprising a minister's secretarial office; permanent secretary's office; the Water Command and Operation Centre to oversee flood, drought, wastewater and groundwater problems; Planning and Policy office; the Royal Irrigation Department; Groundwater Department; Clean and Quality Water Department; Water Fund and Law Office; Water International Cooperation Office; Information and Technology Office; Vehicle and Machine Office; and Finance and Accounting Division.
The fourth model, designed by the Irrigation Department, proposes a water development and management ministry. Under this ministry, the Water Command and Operations Centre, which would oversee flood, drought, wastewater and groundwater problems, would be established, as well as a surface water development and management department. The ministry would also comprise the Groundwater Development and Manage-ment Department, River Basin Develop-ment and Management Bureau, Water Resources Bureau, Water Pollution Control Bureau, Water Resources Standards Bureau, Surface Water Quality Promotion Bureau, Groundwater Quality Promotion Bureau and state enterprises including the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority, Provincial Waterworks Authority and Wastewater Management Authority.
The last choice, initiated by members of the House of Representatives and the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, proposes a ministry comprising the National Water Resources Committee, National Hydrological Disaster Committee, River Basin Committee, minister's office, permanent secretary's office, and state enterprises and public organisations including the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority, Provincial Water-works Authority, Wastewater Management Authority, National Dam Organisation, mekong River Commission of Thailand, Royal Irrigation Department, Water Development for Farming Department, Meteorological Department, River Basin Conservation and Management Depart-ment, Land Development and Water Main-tenance Department, Coastal Resources Department and Groundwater Department.
If a water ministry cannot be established within this government's term, all water agencies should work together to deal with the flood problem instead of working separately, Suphot added.
Pramote Maikrat, a former director-general of the Irrigation Department, said it is high time for the government to get serious about the formation of a water ministry, as this issue has been bandied about for more than 10 years, since government reform was instituted in 2002.
"We need a new unified agency that can work effectively," he said.
However, Suwattana Jitladakorn of the Engineering Institute of Thailand's committee on water sources sees no need for another ministry. "I'm not so sure that creating a new ministry will solve the problem. The flood crises we have faced were caused by government mismanagement," he said.