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WATER-MANAGEMENT PROJECT

European firms' 'bids being ignored'

Companies refusing to offer kickbacks not considered in flood-prevention plan

The government's Bt350-billion water-management projects look set to stay out of reach for European companies that cannot offer commissions without issuing receipts, a seminar was told yesterday.

"I have received complaints from these firms," National Disaster Warning Council chairman Smith Dharmasaroja said at a seminar on the 2011 flood crisis and flood-prevention plans.

Held by the Anti-Global Warming Association and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the seminar attracted more than 200 people, including academics.

In the wake of the 2011 crisis, the government approved a massive budget for flood-prevention and water-management plans, but many are concerned this money might end up being wasted.

"Firms from China, South Korean and Japan have offered to help Thailand develop its water-management infrastructure, but these countries have also suffered fatal flooding," Smith pointed out.

He said companies from Netherlands and France, meanwhile, had barely been given any attention by the government and their representatives have said this is because they would not offer commissions without issuing receipts.

Deputy Bangkok Governor Theerachon Manomaipiboon also said the flood crisis could be partially blamed on the government's inefficient water management and its decision to heed the advice of people who did not really know much about this issue.

"The government listened to some politicians from the House 111 [referring to 111 politicians ordered to serve a five-year political ban]," Theerachon said, adding that the authorities should learn a lesson and stop listening to people who do not have real knowledge about water management.

Theerachon also dismissed the plan to use boats to speed up the flow of water into the sea. "From an engineering point of view, this operation does not work at all," he said.

NHRC commissioner Parinya Sirisarakarn said he hoped the government would spend the Bt350 billion earmarked for flood prevention well.

Meanwhile, Democrat MP Satit Wongnongtaey said that as per World Bank figures, last year's flooding had caused about Bt1.4 trillion in damages, while the Thai Chamber of Commerce estimates the damage at Bt1.7 trillion or more.

"These damages were caused not because the disaster came suddenly, but because the government had time to manage the floods but failed," Satit said.

He added that the Royal Irrigation Department admitted that it had stored far too much water and that there was a coordination problem among the many committees being set up manage the water situation.

"Now, the government is storing too little and it looks like there will be a serious drought this year," he said.

Science Minister Plodprasob Surassawadee, in his capacity as chair of the Water and Flood Management Committee, said he would announce the national flood-prevention plan tomorrow, adding that the procedure of draining water in Bangkok will be rehearsed between September 5 and 7.

"We will test our new water-drainage models," he said.


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