By The Nation
The move, however, has worried activists who feel the projects may be too rushed.
“If relevant agencies hurry too much, there is a risk of getting big projects – but not practical solutions,” Foundation for Integration of Water Management president Hannarong Yaowalers said yesterday.
He spoke after hearing that the Royal Irrigation Department had been instructed to complete water management plans for the Northeast by Thursday so they could be tabled before the mobile Cabinet meeting next week.
The Cabinet will have a mobile meeting in the major Northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday and Monday. When Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha headed to the Southern province of Surat Thani last year, more than 100 projects were approved with the goal of helping the South fight floods, Hannarong said.
“But studies revealed later that the main obstacles for the South’s water management are obstruction of water flow and the need to find more water retention areas,” he said. “This means before the Cabinet approves any project for the Northeast, it should identify the root cause of floods there first.”
Since July 5, floods have ravaged 44 provinces, upsetting the lives of about 1.9 million people and causing 32 deaths.
At present, 11 provinces remain flooded, seven of which are in the Northeast.
Government Spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday that Prayut placed a strong emphasis on flood prevention.
“He has ordered all relevant agencies to closely monitor the water situation and prepare proper water management,” Sansern said.
As the rainy season continues, managing huge water volumes could prove to be a huge challenge for the government.
To boost water management efficiency, Prayut has decided to put the Water Resources Department under the Office of the Prime Minister.
It was announced last week that Prayut would exercise his special powers as the National Council for Peace and Order chief to transfer the department.
The department’s director-general, Worasart Apaipong, said yesterday the transfer was aimed at integrating water management efforts and delivering efficient and fast solutions to water issues.
“When we are under the Office of the Prime Minister, we will take orders directly from the prime minister. This way, we should be able to quickly win cooperation from other relevant agencies,” Worasart said.
According to Sansern, Prayut will today hold a meeting with the chiefs of the Meteorological Department, the Water Resources Department, the Royal Irrigation Department and various agencies with water-related missions to promote coordination.
As of press time, flood threats were growing in the country’s South. Krabi’s disaster prevention and mitigation chief Paisan Khunsri warned people in eight districts to watch out for landslides and flash floods. People living along Phanom Benja Mountain Range were at particular risk.
Flash floods from the mountain range killed one woman in Krabi’s Khao Phanom district yesterday. While she was driving on a local road, a flash flood swept her vehicle into a canal. Although more than 100 rescue workers and local residents rushed to help, she was dead when they reached her.