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Friday, February 10, 2012
Water agencies just can't seem to communicate
An old man sits on a makeshift wooden plank used as a walkway over flooded ground on Feb 8, 2011 after a flash flood in tambon Nom Kho of Sena district, Ayutthaya. (Photo by Sunthorn Pongpao)
The conflicting statements from the various agencies about the current, unseasonal flooding in Sena district of Ayutthaya are as confusing as they are worrisome. They show that the agencies do not even communicate with one another, let alone cooperate.
This clear lack of coordination between agencies responsible for water resources management remains a major problem that needs to be tackled immediately by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra if there is to be no repeat this year of last years disastrous flooding, or to at least keep the damage to a minimum.
Here are just some of the conflicting and confusing statements from the people who are responsible for water resources management.
To begin with, Agriculture Minister Thira Wongsamut said that the flooding in Sena district was caused by the discharge of about 100 million cubic metres of water a day from the Bhumibol dam in Tak province and Sirikit dam in Uttradit province.
But the Irrigation Department, which part of his ministry, did not notify the provinces downstream from the two dams, including Ayutthaya, about the water discharges, and the provincial authorities in Ayutthaya, in this particular case, did not alert the people in Sena district.
The result was panic in the riverside communities.
Mr Thira’s secretary, Nikorn Chamnong piled the blame for the water discharges from the two dams on the Strategic Formulation of Water Resources Management Committee (SFWRMC), which he said issued the instruction and advised that the amount of water released daily from the dams was 44-58 million cubic metres.
Former irrigation chief Pramote Maiklad (Photo by Kosol Nakachol)
Sirikit Dam director Thanarat Pumimakasikorn denied that his dam was responsible for the flooding. He said there were no reports of water overflowing the river banks in any provinces downstream from the dam, except in Sena district. The problem, he said, could be due to poor water management in Ayutthaya itself.
Thanawat said he had been told by SFWRMC to reduce the volume of water in Sirikit dam to 45 per cent of its capacity from the current level of 77 per cent before the arrival of the rainy season.
Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department director-general Viboon Sa-nguanpong also jumped into the fray, saying that the flooding in Sena district was caused by the excessive release of water from the Chao Phraya dam as a direct consequence of the discharges from Bhumibol and Sirikit dams.
The Chao Phraya river would overflow its banks and cause flooding only when 1,500 to 2,000 cubic metres of water (cmps) per second, or more, were discharged from Chao Phraya dam, and not only 700 cmps as has been the case, said Viboon. If the dam was at fault, then Pa Moke district and other districts located downstream along the Noi river should have been inundated also, not only Sena district.
Officials of Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand which manages Bhumibol and Sirikit dams blamed the flooding in Sena district on unseasonal rain in the area.
Former irrigation chief and SFWRMC member Pramote Maiklad said the setting up of a super water resources committee, officially known as the National Water Resources Policy and Flood Committee headed by the prime minister, and another committee, the Water Resources Management and Flood Committee, was just a duplication of the SFWRMC and could cause delays in the execution of planned works.
Are you confused? Not surprising. So what really caused the minor flooding in Sena district?
However, the flooding in Sena district does not really matter nearly as much as the fact that the people responsible for water management, and the agencies they supervise, do not even communicate with each another let alone coordinate their efforts.
This unresolved problem provides a grim reminder of the communication gap and poor cooperation between the Bangkok Metropolitan and Flood Relief Operations Command during last year’s Big Flood.
A good example was the City Hall’s request to Froc for more water pumps. There was no response from Froc. And do you know where the problem lay? The two agencies communicated with each other by means of letters, using the postal service, at the height of a flood crisis and at a time when most of us communicate with one another using cellphones or email.
So if Prime Minister Yingluck, who is now the overlord for flood prevention, is to be successful in her new challenge she must, at the very least, make sure that all the people involved, the agencies involved, in flood prevention coordinate their activities. They must communicate and cooperate.
If they will not communicate directly with each other because of personal rivalries or whatever reason, the National Water Resources Policy and Flood Office should serve as a liaison centre for all these very relevant agencies.
Unless the problem is resolved, we, the ordinary people, may have to fend for ourselves -- once again -- and pray for mercy from the Almighty.