A case of deluge deja vu

A case of deluge deja vu

The current flooding in the Central provinces brings back bad memories of the epic flood in 2011. In that annus horribilis, the central region was under water for months.

That huge flood is remembered as one of the worst in the country's history. In Bangkok, people were seen rowing boats on Vibhavadi Road.

Houses and even factories in the Central region such as those in Ayutthaya were submerged.

This year marks 10 years since that epic flood, and people are starting to worry a repetition could occur by pointing to tell-tale signs.

Similar to what happened a decade ago, and around the same time of the year, the Chao Phraya River is welling up with water that is gradually spilling into communities in 28 provinces.

Meanwhile, the Thai Meteorological Department (TMD) also forecasts more rain for this and next month.

The government does not seem to be worried.

Experts from both state agencies and academic institutes have tried to allay fears by saying the chances of a repeat flood are around 10%.

They claim the situations in 2011 and 2021 are different.

In 2011, four major dams in the upper region were full to bursting due to heavy rain, forcing officials to release a huge amount of water from them.

This year, they say, these four dams are at just 50% of storage capacity and can take in more rain water.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha appears nonchalant. "Don't worry. We have a contingency plan to respond to flooding," he said.

However, people should worry.

What people should fear is that Thailand lacks the capacity to deal with water issues. This includes flooding and drought on any scale, not just the proportions seen in 2011.

Major cities are often crippled by flooding after a short period of heavy rainfall, with some spells of rain lasting as little as 20 minutes.

The government's approach to flood management is always the same: building roads at a higher elevation, more flood walls along rivers and more dams and reservoirs.

Local authorities are more diligent in dredging canals and removing water hyacinths now, but there is no agency with the capacity to predict changes in rainfall patterns.

It is also shocking that the massive 350-billion baht water-management plan that the government came up with back in late 2011, initiated in response to the disastrous floods, has been shelved, after bidding was aborted amid reports of irregularities.

There may be some good news here in that the government, according to reports, is planning to develop two major water drainage canals along a major river.

The government's original plan involved 10 projects involving dams, reservoirs, flood retention ponds along the Chao Phraya, and 24 other waterways across the country.

Ten years on from that massive flood, the government and agencies in charge of such matters do not seemed to have learned anything, or put this painful experience to good use.

Over the past decade, no investigation has been held to determine what was the real cause of that flood, whether it was human error or the result of climate change.

Not knowing the real cause means the government still does not know the right solution, which is a concern as flooding picks up.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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