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Smith faults water management

Posted by arnon_k On October - 13 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Smith Dharmasarojana, former director-general of the Meteorological Department and present chairman of the National Disaster Warning Council Foundation, is interviewed by Bangkok Post reporter KING-OUA LAOHONG and blames current catastrophic flooding in the country on poor water management.

Does the widespread flooding send any unusual signal?

This incident does not result from a natural disaster. Our problem is that we do not know how to manage water. We did not assess from the beginning of the rainy season whether there would be lots of rain and how much water should have been held in the dams.

Every party kept water in large dams. The Irrigation Department and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) were afraid they would run out of water in the dry season. They made the wrong guess.

If rains continue throughout the middle and the end of the rainy season, the dams cannot hold all the water and now all large dams are full.

The problem is that all the full dams are discharging water simultaneously. The Central Plains below the dams has already suffered heavy rains. Consequently there is a massive amount of water. The simultaneous discharges from the dams have therefore caused flooding in many areas from Nakhon Sawan to Ayutthaya.

What should the immediate solution be now?

We should stop discharges from the three major dams — Bhumibol, Sirikit and Pasak Jolasid — right now because it is not raining above them. If the massive discharges continue and compound flooding in the Central Plains, floods will happen everywhere and cause damage worth hundreds of billions of baht.

We must also drain water from the big rivers, namely the Tha Chin, Chao Phraya and Bang Pakong into the sea as soon as possible to protect Bangkok. Big pumps must be installed at their estuaries. Accelerating boats in the middle of the wide Chao Phraya River is a waste because they propel only the water on the surface.

Does this show there is no teamwork among agencies concerned?

Without coordination among the Meteorological Department, the Irrigation Department and the Egat, we cannot determine the appropriate amount of water to be reserved. This eventually leads to flooding. Actually, discharges from the big dams can be managed. If water is not discharged from the three dams simultaneously, Bangkok, its outskirts, Ayutthaya and many other provinces will not be flooded.

Will Bangkok be flooded?

It will be to a certain extent. Some people believe the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration can divert floodwater from the capital but I do not believe in the BMA. It has not supervised floodwalls in the outskirts. Floodwalls in Pathum Thani have just collapsed. The BMA does not take care of them. In fact, the BMA should take action there because water from Pathum Thani will reach Bangkok.

I wonder if floodwalls around Bangkok are strong enough because there are soil dykes, concrete dykes and sandbag dykes, especially those in the suburbs that local administrative organisations have built and maintained.

They were built by contractors, not by knowledgeable experts, and they may not be strong enough.

I think Bangkok has a slim chance of surviving.

Govt moves to protect inner city

Posted by arnon_k On October - 12 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Run-off sweeps through floodwalls in suburbs

The government has ordered every available measure be taken to protect Bangkok’s inner-city commercial and residential districts from flooding as torrents of northern run-off began to sweep through floodwalls in outer suburbs, inundating many communities.

Residents of Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Prakan and Chachoengsao were warned yesterday to watch out for more flooding.

Northern run-off is expected to reach Bangkok between Friday and Monday at a time when there are also expected to be high sea tides.

Justice Minister Pracha Promnok, who heads the government’s flood relief centre, raised concern about the situation in the surrounding provinces.

But he said there was no need to declare a state of emergency as the provincial governors could handle the situation.

While efforts have been under way to protect Bangkok from being swamped, the minister said he could not confirm if the capital would be safe from floods, and it would depend on rainstorms, the run-off sweeping down from Ayutthaya and the high sea tides.

Flood prevention measures for Bangkok include diverting floodwaters to the sea and the water from the Pasak River to Khlong Rapeepat, Khlong Samwa and Khlong Saen Saep.

City Hall has also been instructed to dredge seven canals in Nong Chok and Lat Krabang to ensure they can take in more water.

The army and navy are also building floodwalls in the Muang Ake housing estate in Rangsit and in areas around the Rangsit canal, Salaya and Taling Chan to protect inner Bangkok from inundation.

Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi, chief of operations covering evacuation and flood prevention, gave assurances that inner-city areas of Bangkok would be safe.

But he admitted some suburbs, particularly in the east, west and north of Bangkok would be hit by run-off.

Water would be diverted to eastern Bangkok through Khlong Rapeepat, Khlong Prince Chaiyanuchit and Khlong Rangsit whereas run-off from the Tha Chin River would be diverted to western Bangkok, affecting Nakhon Pathom, Ratchaburi and Suphan Buri.

Veera Wongsaengnak, adviser to the Irrigation Department chief, said run-off from the Rojana Industrial Park in Ayutthaya would reach the Rangsit canal in the next few days.

Canal-side residents in Khlong Rangsit 1-6 are advised to prepare to evacuate to high ground if the canal’s banks are breached.

Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said he had instructed troops to build floodwalls to protect eastern Bangkok where Suvarnabhumi airport is located.

Wilaiwan Nadwilai, the airport’s spokeswoman, said emergency plans are in place to deal with flooding at Suvarnabhumi.

She said the airport’s flood prevention system includes a 3-metre-high embankment stretching 23.5km around the airport, with a drainage ditch to drain floodwater to six water retention ponds which can hold up to 4 million cubic metres of water. There are also four water pumps at the airport which can drain one million cu/m of water a day, Ms Wilaiwan said.

The Rural Roads Department has been asked to dredge the Lat Krabang canal to ensure water is drained faster and more effectively, Ms Wilaiwan said.

At the Institute of Administration Development in Pathum Thani’s Thanyaburi district yesterday, more than 1,000 soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division were racing to produce 1.5 million sandbags within two days to form a 12km-long floodwall along the banks of the Rangsit canal. The sandbag wall, to be at least 1.30 metres high, will prevent run-off from the North forecast between Friday and Monday from entering Bangkok’s inner city areas. Nearby residents have also been asked to help.

Meanwhile, soldiers from the 3rd Army were carrying about 150,000 sandbags on military trucks from Phitsanulok to reinforce floodwalls in Bangkok after floodwaters in the heart of Phitsanulok receded and the situation there returned to normal.

In Pathum Thani, deputy provincial governor Panthep Sriwanich said the Chao Phraya River yesterday burst through 11 floodwalls in Sam Khok district, inundating houses and vast areas of farmland in tambon Sam Khok and tambon Krasaeng. Wat Sopharam and Wat Hong Pathuma in Muang district were flooded after a nearby dyke was breached.

In Nonthaburi’s Bang Bua Thong district, Bang Bua Thong District Hospital was under a metre of water. Twenty three patients had to be evacuated to nearby hospitals.

Nonthaburi governor Wichian Phuttiwinyu said at least 3,000 households in many parts of the province have been hit by floods triggered by days of persistent rainfall. A floodwall in the province has also been breached.

Floodwaters have now risen to 1.2 metres. Soldiers and officials were struggling to help the flood-ravaged areas, Mr Wichian said.

Wim Rungwattanajinda, spokesman for the government’s flood relief operations centre, yesterday said City Hall has been assigned to dredge Khlong Ngu Hao, Khlong Bang Chalong amd Khlong Charakhae Yai whereas the Irrigation Department has been instructed to clear Khlong Prince Chaiyanuchit and Khlong Prawesburiram. The dredging work must be finished by tomorrow so the canals can take in more water coming from the North, Mr Wim said.

He said floods would be inevitable in Khlong Samwa, Min Buri, Nong Chok and Lat Krabang.

If evacuations are needed, City Hall will send out cars with loudspeakers to warn people at least three hours before the floods arrive.

People from all strata of society join in

People from all walks of life are working tirelessly to pack donated goods at Don Mueang airport for people around the country who have been affected by the floods.

Volunteers of all ages yesterday were busy packing food supplies, bottled water, clothing and other donated goods on the first floor of the airport’s terminal building, which has been turned into the government’s flood relief operations centre. Most volunteers live in Bangkok and surrounding provinces.

Chalerm Changthongmadan, chairman of the Hired Motorcycle Taxi Drivers Association, has brought about 30 association members to help pack donated goods since Monday.

He said motorcycle taxi drivers from all parts of Bangkok would take turns helping pack donated items at the flood relief operations centre every day.

Saipin Lojaya, a 64-year-old retired government official in Bangkok’s Lat Phrao district, said she was determined to do her part in helping flood victims. Having experienced flooding herself in 1983, she said she knows how flood victims are suffering.

“If I didn’t come this time, I don’t know whether I will ever have a chance to help people hit by floods again. I will keep coming to the centre,” said Ms Saipin, while packing items into a relief bag. Ms Saipin said she had also donated goods and cash at the centre.

Suthidawan Thongmee, 28, said news that volunteers were needed to help pack supplies for flood victims had prompted her and her two siblings to go to the centre. She spent her days off from work packing food supplies and other relief items.

She said she was impressed with the generosity of Thais in helping others in a time of hardship.

Other volunteers, among them children and the elderly, arrived at the centre yesterday to help pack donated goods. Jobs were clearly divided among them. Some groups were responsible for separating goods while others put items into relief bags.

One group of volunteers formed a long queue to carry the bags to awaiting trucks which will deliver them to flood-hit areas across the country.

Wim Rungwattanajinda, secretary of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and spokesman for the government’s flood relief operations centre, said initially there had been heavy traffic on roads leading to flood-hit provinces, particularly worst-hit Ayutthaya province, as many private vehicles carrying relief supplies were trying to reach the affected areas.

This had hampered the government’s efforts to evacuate flood victims, especially the elderly.

To solve the problem, the government set up the flood relief centre at Don Mueang to receive donations and distribute them to flood victims, he said.

No let-up in sight for flood crisis

Posted by arnon_k On September - 21 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Floods will continue to wreak havoc around the country until November as several northern provinces remain inundated while drainage is going slow, the Royal Irrigation Department says.

“The flood crisis won’t improve soon. The department projects that the situation will return to normal in November at the earliest,” said Suthep Noipairoj, director of the RID’s hydrology and water management office yesterday.

Mr Suthep said about 1.8 billion cubic metres of water remain in the Yom and Nan rivers while another 1.2 billion cubic metres is in the Chao Phraya River basin.

Water from the North will be diverted to the Chao Phraya before flowing to the Nakhon Nayok and Bang Pakong rivers and the Gulf of Thailand, he said.

Sucharit Pultanakulwong, a water engineering expert at Chulalongkorn University, said more water pumping stations must be installed to speed up the flow of water so the floods recede.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry plans to build another canal to drain water from the Chao Phraya to the sea to prevent flooding in the Central Plains in the long term, Minister Theera Wongsamut said yesterday.

Mr Theera said the canal, linking the Chao Phraya River in the upper part of Chai Nat to Samut Songkhram, Samut Sakhon and the Gulf of Thailand, would be 300 metres wide to allow water to flow to the sea rapidly.

In addition, a road would be built on each bank of the canal to improve transport links between the provinces near the new canal.

The ministry is conducting a feasibility study for the 10 billion baht drainage project, he added.

The cabinet yesterday set up a new flood relief committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit.

It is called the committee on the management of flood, mudslide and drought problems. It is expected to integrate and streamline government agencies’ efforts to handle natural disasters, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said.

The prime minister said the cabinet decided to set up the committee because it has found while monitoring government agencies’ attempts to solve problems related to floods and mudslides that each agency worked in a different direction and did not address problems systematically.

Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra said City Hall had assessed the situation and believed flood walls along the Chao Phraya River could prevent water runoff from the river from flooding communities.

The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department yesterday reported that the floods have claimed 130 lives since July 25. Two people are missing.

The Meteorological Department yesterday issued a warning against heavy rainfall until Friday due to a moderate high pressure area and the southwest monsoon that prevail over the Andaman Sea, the southern provinces and the Gulf of Thailand.