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Best defence is no defence

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No floodwalls for Nonthaburi's Rattanathibet housing estate, as residents have decided to the only practical way to reduce their suffering is let future floods run through the community unimpeded. 

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Prayong Sripum, head of Rattanathibet housing estate in Nonthaburi’s Bang Bua Thong district, keep water hyacinth to prevent his fibre-glass boat drying out and cracking. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD

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Best defence is no defence

While industrial estates and many communities are busy building dykes to keep out the next flood, residents in Nonthaburi's Rattanathibet housing estate are taking a different approach.

The only practical way to deal with a flood in their area, they say, is to let the water flow through unimpeded.

"Right now, the estate is not thinking about prevention and have only six water pumps as we think dykes will make things worse as they would obstruct water flow,” says Prayong Sripum, the estate head.

Last year, the estate which overlaps Bang Bua Thong and Bang Yai districts was inundated for almost two months by floodwaters two metres deep. Around 3,000 households suffered.

Mr Prayong, whose family had to live on the second floor of their house, said that his community is vulnerable to flooding.

“If floodwaters reach the same levels as last year, it would be useless to adopt major prevention methods," he said.

“If flooding comes again, we will only have sandbags, water pumps and manpower to help each other."

Mr Prayong collects water hyacinth near his home to put in the boat he bought during the severe floods late last year.

While a flood wall might be useless, other measures are being taken to reduce the severity of the next flood.

Rattanathibet housing estate is under the supervision of the local tambon administrative organisation which recently announced the dredging of surrounding canals, the removal of thick water hyacinths and the construction of more water gates.

Surapol Chaengjai, consultant to the estate's committee, says the community has also learned not to place too much faith in the government. He recalled the floodwater last year came without warning in the early hours of Oct 19.

"We believed so much in the government and that the flood situation was under control. But the floodwater came at night, so a warning was not issued," he said.

"If it reoccurs this year, when it reaches Ayutthaya, we will assume we will be hit for sure. 

Adapted from a story in today’s Bangkok Post by Lamphai Intathep.

housing estate – residential estate; an area containing a large number of houses or apartments built close together at the same time บ้านจัดสรร
water hyacinth – a plant that grows in water, often found in Thailand’s waterways ผักตบชวา
crack – a line on a surface where something is beginning to break apart รอยแตก  รอยร้าว
defence – protecting somebody/something from damage, attack, etc.  การป้องกัน, การต้าน
industrial estate – an area of land where industrial companies have their buildings นิคมอุตสาหกรรม
community – the people living in one particular area ชุมชน
dyke – a wall built to prevent the sea, river of flood water from covering an area เขื่อนกั้นน้ำ
residents – people who live in a particular area ประชาชนที่อาศัยในท้องที่
approach – a way of doing or dealing with something การจัดการกับปัญหา
practical – suitable for the situation in which something is used ที่ขึ้นอยู่กับความเป็นจริง
flow – (of a liquid) to move continuously in one direction ไหล
unimpeded – with nothing blocking or stopping somebody/something ไม่มีอะไรขวางทาง
prevention – preventing something bad from happening การป้องกันภ้ย
obstruct – to make it difficult for something to go somewhere ขวางทาง
overlap – (of areas of land) to cover parts of each other  คาบเกี่ยวกัน
inundated – flooded ถูกน้ำท่วม, จมลงใต้น้ำ
household – a group of people, often a family, who live together  ครัวเรือน
suffer – to experience something very unpleasant or painful ประสบ
vulnerable – easily damaged ซึ่งถูกทำลายได้ง่าย
level – the amount of liquid that there is in a container, river, dam, etc., which can be seen by how high the liquid is ระดับ
adopt – to accept or to start using something new นำมาใช้
manpower – the supply of people who are able to work กำลังคน
severe – very serious and unpleasant รุนแรง
measure – an action taken to solve a particular problem มาตรการ
reduce – to make something smaller or less in amount, size, importance etc ลดลง
supervision – the process of making sure that something is being done properly  การควบคุมดูแล การตรวจตรา
dredge – to remove unwanted things from the bottom of a river, canal, lake, etc. using a sucking or other device ขุดลอก
surrounding – all around a place  บริเวณรอบๆ
construction – the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. การก่อสร้าง
consultant – a person who knows a lot about a particular subject and is employed to give advice about it to other people ผู้ให้คำปรึกษา
faith – trust in somebody's ability or knowledge; trust that somebody/something will do what has been promised  ศรัทธา
recall – to remember จำได้ นึกทบทวน
warning – an action or statement telling someone of a possible problem or danger คำเตือน
issue – to announce something officially ออกประกาศ
reoccur – to happen again
assume – to accept something to be true without question or proof ทึกทักเอา, คิดว่าเป็นจริง

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