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Heads almost above water

Industrial estate chair Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul believes that government assistance is vital in helping the private sector recover from the flood disaster



Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, chair of the Bangkadee Industrial Estate and Toshiba Group in Thailand, hopes to start pumping the massive amount of floodwater out of the 47-factory industrial compound in Pathum Thani province by the end of this month.

At present, the water level inside the compound is still one or two metres deep.

"We're waiting for the water level outside (the park) to drop so that we will not hurt residents around the estate when we pump out the water," she says.

"We hope to start the process this weekend, plus or minus. It should take about 30 days to get the estate dry and restore all utilities and infrastructure such as electricity, clean water supply and waste water treatment.

"By the end of this year, we hope factories inside the estate can do their repair and maintenance on equipment and machinery. Afterwards, it should take another two or three months for them to resume production.

"At the moment it is difficult to assess the damage to the nine Toshiba factories and others inside the estate. However, we're all covered by insurance companies, and negotiations on compensation are underway.

"Toshiba Group's combined investment in these factories is about Bt20-25 billion, while the combined workforce is about 10,000.

"We produce large refrigerators, washing machines, lighting products etcetera, as well as electronic and computer parts such as hard disk drives, semi-conductors and accessories for home appliances.

"Toshiba should be able to launch its first products again around March next year. However, I have talked to some of our clients and some of them say it will take up to a year to resume full production because their production lines are very sophisticated and they need to repair the whole lines even if only one portion is damaged.

"I think the government should do more in three areas to help the private sector recover from this massive flooding.

"First, the government should provide more support on getting the industrial estates dry as soon as possible, such as providing more big pumps, and fire engines.

"Second, it's new dyke construction. We have to start this now, as people always ask me will the water come again again. No one knows for sure, so we have a deadline for that by the end of August next year. We should have new dykes built to protect all the seven big industrial estates.

"For Bangkadee Industrial Estate, we plan to build new dykes of 5.5 metres high above the mean sea level, while some other estates have said they will have to build as high as 6.5 metres above the MSL.

"The government has launched a soft loan programme charging an interest rate of 0.01 per cent for a seven-year period, but we would like the payback term extended to 15 years.

"For Toshiba, the cost of building new permanent dykes is about Bt30-50 million per kilometre, and we need to build around 8.5 kilometres of new dykes around our boundary.

"Last but not least is the country's long-term water resource management system. I hope we can turn this crisis into an opportunity that makes us smarter and wiser, so that we can have a more sustainable future," she said.


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