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in-focus

Better early warning system is sorely needed


JUDGING FROM the recent flooding, it is clear that the government needs to improve its early-warning system so people can protect themselves and their property.

Owing to heavy downpours caused by the monsoon trough and depression, more than 628,766 people in 24 provinces in the Northeast and the East have been badly affected and 13 lives have been lost. 
 
Recently, affected locals in Prachin Buri went on television to complain that their homes were submerged because no state agency had provided them with an early warning. 
 
“These floods were mainly caused by the mismanagement of local government agencies and the central administration’s weakness. The state agencies don’t even have enough manpower to run the system properly,” Dr Anond Snidvongs, an executive director for the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda), said.
 
In 2011, when massive floods hit as many as 65 provinces, the government announced it would set up a water and flood information centre to manage the early warning system as part of its mammoth Bt350-billion water-management and flood-prevention scheme. It said it would earmark about Bt4 billion to establish a single command centre. 
 
There are already more than 18 state agencies that deal with flood problems including the Royal Irrigation Department and the National Disaster Warning Centre, yet it seems like they will not go beyond their basic duties. 
 
“Even they didn’t send any warnings to villagers living in flood-risk areas,” Anond said. 
 
A survey by The Nation showed that many state agencies have been posting information on several websites. The only problem is that the language used is far too complicated and technical for the layman to understand. Even the special mobile-phone applications or messages via Facebook and Twitter showing where and when the rain will fall are too ambiguous. 
 
This is probably why many people rely on international websites or applications too keep up with the weather conditions. 
 
It is true that this year there are no risk factors to suggest there will be massive flooding in the Central region or the capital. Also, big dams such as Bhumibol, Sirikit and Khwae Noi in the North do not need to discharge massive amounts of water like they did in 2011, and there are plenty of water-retention areas that can hold run-off and prevent flooding in the capital and other major cities. However, the government still needs to be ready to handle flooding and respond immediately to emergency situations. 
“It is not too late for the government to learn a lesson from the flooding in areas like Prachin Buri, analyse its errors and come up with ways to cope with floods, especially in terms of the accuracy of the early warning system,” Anond said. 
 
Let’s hope the government heeds his words.
 

Published : September 30, 2013

By : Pongphon Sarnsamak The Nation