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Victims of floods can sue, say academics

Oct 19. 2017
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State agencies slammed for their failure to mitigate damage.

 AUTHORITIES ARE violating their own rules and could be sued for not maintaining irrigation facilities properly and failing to implement a disaster-prevention plan and warning system, academics said.

As flood problems ravaged many parts of the country, it was reported yesterday that Ban Sawangniyom Reservoir in Surin’s Kap Choeng district was the latest dam to be breached, which caused widespread flooding downstream. At least four dams have been breached this year.

Maha Sarakham University lecturer Chainarong Sretthachau said that the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) was violating its own rules by allowing the dam to fail and the affected people could sue it for not performing its duty properly.

Chainarong said that the RID is obliged to perform its duty to regularly maintain all dams, prepare the disaster-prevention plan in case of a dam failure, and have a real-time warning system for local people. 

Local authorities also have to prepare a plan for people to cope with a disaster.

He said that recent dam failures showed that the RID did not perform its duty properly and the affected people could sue the agency and relevant agencies for this wrongdoing.

Surin Provincial Royal Irrigation Office said that Ban Sawangniyom Reservoir’s earth dyke was breached due to the high level of water in the reservoir and an inspection of the scene found that water had cut a 20 metres wide by four metres deep hole in the dyke.

On Wednesday, the earth dam in Lop Buri’s Khok Samrong district collapsed and flooded the downstream area. Earlier on July, Huai Sai Khamin Reservoir in Sakon Nakhon province was breached and caused extensive flooding in Sakon Nakhon.

“The RID has to be honest to the people and warn them [when] the dam begins to fail. For not performing the duties as per its own rules, the affected people can sue the department and it also has to pay compensation for all the damage,” Chainarong said.

Government agencies have been sued previously.

The family of a five-year-old girl, who drowned in the major flood after the dam collapsed in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Bang Saphan district this January, sued the RID as it failed to warn people about the dam failure.

Prominent activist Srisuwan Janya said that people who suffered flood damage could ask for compensation from the relevant agencies. If their request were to be ignored, they could sue the official agencies in the Administrative Court.

“Not only people affected by a dam failure can ask for compensation from authorities, people affected by the floods in Bangkok after the heavy downpour last Saturday could also seek compensation from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration,” Srisuwan said.

“If the authorities ignore the request, people can use the compensation request letter as evidence to sue the authorities in the Administrative Court for not performing their duty.”

He said the action was in line with the law that requires local authorities to warn people about disaster, but it was clear that there was no flood warning for the major flood in Bangkok last Saturday. As well, the BMA failed to get its drainage system ready to prevent the flood.

RID deputy director-general Thongplew Kongchan said the current flood situation was under control, although flooding in the Chi River Basin in the Northeast was still severe.

Thongplew said that Ubonrat Dam in Khon Kaen province, which has already reached 120 per cent of capacity, had to discharge more water at the rate of 50 million cubic metres per day. This may intensify the flood problem downstream, although the situation will improve as no more rain is expected.

He did not comment about the recent dam failure.

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