Govt 'losing race' to prevent floods

national June 20, 2012 00:00


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Following news that many projects had been delayed, the Federation of Thai Industries yesterday urged the government to speed up construction to prevent a repeat of last year's flood.

Environment experts said ongoing construction projects, including dykes to protect industrial areas from overflowing waterways, would not be sufficient to prevent floods.

The federation also asked the government to hasten efforts towards rehabilitation and compensation payments for businesses affected by last year’s flood.
“We have doubts about the government’s measures to prevent flooding this year as many construction works still face delays, especially the dykes to prevent flood water inundating industrial parks,” said the Federation’s vice president, Tanit Sorat.
He was speaking at a seminar titled “Flood, Earthquake and Drought: Will Thailand overcome disasters?” organised by Bangchak Petroleum and Krungthep Turakij newspaper.
“I am not sure the ongoing dyke construction will protect us from flooding this year,” he said.
He added that government efforts to aid industry’s recovery from damage caused by last year’s flood were also too slow.
“The government’s bank set up measures to help us only four months ago and has not given us much money,” he said.
“The government should be building infrastructure to create confidence among investors, who remain afraid of possible flooding and have little confidence in the government’s measures,” he said. 
Auto and camera lens manufacturers were the industries most affected by last year’s flood and the damage had knock-on effects for global production, Tanit said. Jeeraphan Assawathanakul, president of the General Insurance Association, said the insurance business and its consumers needed to rethink their strategies in the wake of the Bt400 billion to Bt500 billion in flood damage last year. The flood was listed among the globe’s top 10 most costly disasters ever and prompted insurers to tighten their pay-out policies.
Some relief for victims came recently when the government set up a Bt50-billion disaster insurance fund.
Royol Chitdon, director of the Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute, said the government needed to spend more on construction to prevent future floods. 
Over the past 12 months, water projects had seen only one-tenth of the investment put into road construction, he added.
“All roads in Thailand are maintained every seven years but there is no such maintenance regime for waterways,” he said. 
Meanwhile, Thanawat Jarupongsa-kul, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Unit for Disaster and Land Information Studies, said flood-prevention measures such as the dykes now being constructed around industrial parks and large rivers would not protect the areas from flooding.
These areas will be submerged by rainfall and then become huge sinks that will retain water.
Instead of attempting to block floods, he said the government should remove obstacles to the natural flow of flood water.