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Agencies call for new drains, canals and dams to prevent floods


OFFICIAL agencies have said the extreme rain and the geography of the South were key reasons for the recent major floods, adding that new irrigation projects must be built and city plans adjusted to effectively deal with such problems.

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Representatives from government agencies spoke to the media at Chulalongkorn University yesterday, saying that flooding problem was normal in the South during this period. But they said better city plans and more “tools” – bigger drains, bypass canals and dams – were needed in each province to stop floods from doing serious damage. 
Meteorological Department Central Weather Forecast Division director Surapong Sarapa said that the climate had changed in recent years. Officials had noticed increasingly varied rainfall in the South – 20 per cent, compared to a normal variance of around 10 per cent. That meant more extreme droughts or more regular flooding.
“This is the normal period for flooding in the South, because this is the rainy season down there. But we can see that some places experienced more than 300 millimetres in just one day, which is largely beyond the drainage capacity of the area, so a big flood is inevitable,” Surapong said.
Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department deputy director-general Kobchai Boonyaorana said flood prevention was harder in the South than other parts of the country because of the region’s unique geographical features.
“The southern region is different from other parts of the country, as it is a long peninsula with short waterways carrying water from the mountains down to the sea. Due to this topography, the water will flow fast from the mountain to the cities on the coast and leave us very short time to warn people and prepare for a disaster,” Kobchai said.
While the short distance to the sea may help water drain quicker, it was very hard to drain water to the sea during high tide, which made the flood situation worse.
“In regard to water drainage, we found that narrow bridges, roads and buildings also blocked the water’s passage and intensified the flood situation. Therefore, I suggest that we should reform the city plans to make water drainage easier and solve the flood problem sustainably,” he said.
“This should be done by enlarging bridges to allow greater water flow during flood periods and local officials should strictly regulate city plans to avoid building in waterways.”
Meanwhile, Royal Irrigation Department deputy director-general Narong Leenanon said his department was set up originally to provide irrigation water for farmers – not manage water, so old reservoirs and dams were not built to deal with flood mitigation.
“Our department is working with old irrigation tools to mitigate floods in the South as much as possible. And, it is clear that we need more tools to better manage water, especially new reservoirs to hold water in the mountains and new canals to drain water directly to the sea,” Narong said.
“In the first stage, we will improve the drainage capacity of existing waterways by dredging. Then we plan to build new bypass canals, which have been proven to be a successful method to prevent floods in Hat Yai. And then in the long term, we plan to build new dams in every major southern province for sustainable water management,” he said.
But Chainarong Sretthachau, a lecturer at Maha Sarakham University, said on Facebook that building dams would not resolve the threat of flooding, as the root of the problem was that mountain forests were being destroyed by mining activities.
“The headwater areas of Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani are full of mines. There are 10 mining concessions in Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Nopphitam district and many more mines on Khao Luang Mountain. These mines not only destroy the forest, which intensifies flash flooding, but damages top soil, which increases the risk of landslides,” Chainarong said.
Meanwhile, the weather bureau warned that Thailand may face another series of droughts this year.
“We face severe flooding in the South and normal precipitation is predicted during this year,” Surapong said. “It is the dry season now in the rest of the country and drought is highly possible in arid areas. This is because there is more water being consumed so we should use water wisely.”

Published : January 23, 2017

By : PRATCH RUJIVANAROM THE NATION