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Govt prepares plan on water scheme

Getting ready to deal with pending verdict as court sets hearing date

THE CARETAKER government will today decide on how it is going to deal with the Supreme Administrative Court's verdict on the controversial Bt350-billion water and flood-management scheme.

Suphot Tovichakchaikul, secretary-general of the Water and Flood Management Commission (WFMC), said he will be meeting Thongthong Chandrangsu, permanent secretary for the PM's Office, as well as legal experts at the Office of the Attorney-General today to seek a resolution on the court verdict.

This move comes after the court set January 9 as the date to hear testimonies from plaintiff Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA) and the defendants - namely caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and eight other officials - in the alleged wrongful procedures in running the mega-project so far.

The court is expected to issue a final decision within a week after the hearing.

"Personally, I have nothing to worry about because the WFMC has complied with the legal procedures and we can clarify our process to court," Suphot said.

He added that an attorney would be sent to court as a representative to clarify WFMC's legal procedures in running the water scheme.

Meanwhile, SGWA president Srisuwan Janya said he expected that the Supreme Administrative Court's final say would be in line with an earlier verdict from the Central Administrative Court, which ordered the government to comply with the Constitution's Articles 57 (2) and 67 (2).

"I think this court will also issue a verdict ordering the government to restart its procedures to run a public hearing on some projects that would have a huge impact on the environment and local people's health," he said.

He added that he was not sure if the court would tell the government to come up with a new version of the water-management master plan as there were no guidelines on the creation of a master plan for government mega-projects.

Last year, the government introduced a programme worth Bt350 billion in a bid to control and prevent flooding nationwide, though it would mostly benefit the Central region. The Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management proposed this scheme after the 2011 flood crisis, which affected 65 provinces and killed 657 people.

The scheme's nine modules include dams, reservoirs, water-retention areas, city protection, flood-diversion channels and an information centre, and is expected to take up to five years to complete.

So far, four companies have won bids to administer this mega-project - but work was suspended after Srisuwan filed a lawsuit in the Central Administration Court claiming that he had found the process to be lacking in public participation, especially from those who would be affected directly. The court later ordered the government to conduct public hearings and listen to opinions from local people in accordance with the Constitution's Articles 57 and 67(2), which require state agencies to seek public opinion and conduct environmental and health impact assessments (EHIAs) before going ahead with mega-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 that 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 a master plan and other construction projects.

The government is now holding public hearings on the project as ordered by the Central Administrative Court.

Public forums have yet to be conducted in Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom and Kanchanaburi due to the current political turmoil. However, Supot said the attorney-general has suggested that the WFMC hold forums in these provinces before the February 2 general election.




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