Chadchart's first real test

Chadchart's first real test

If great power comes with great responsibility, then the large numbers of votes that a politician receives also mean great expectations. This is the case of Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt, who received a record-breaking 1.3 plus million votes at the gubernatorial election in May.

Now the governor is learning the dark side of popularity after his performance in flood prevention failed to impress Bangkok denizens. Water experts are now questioning what the strategy was behind his flood-prevention tactics.

Political commentator Chuvit Kamolvisit, a past governor candidate, asked what Mr Chadchart's strategic thinking was in tackling the flood threat and questioned his management skills. As a further example, Democrat Party governor candidate Suchatvee Suwansawat -- who is a respected water management expert -- also publicly criticised City Hall's handling of the floods.

It seems the flooding has cut short Mr Chadchart's honeymoon period to three months instead of six.

Yet, it's unfair to rate his performance or any Bangkok governor's performance based on flood management faux pas, because if flood management performance is the benchmark, most past Bangkok governors have more or less failed.

Bangkok is located on low-lying flood terrain with rivers and canals. It has long been a flood-prone city and that's unlikely to change.

Every year, the capital city faces seasonal floods that come from three sources: runoff water from the North, rainwater and flood intrusion from the rising sea.

Manmade problems such as land development that eat away at flood-catchment areas, as well as the construction of infrastructure that blocks water flow, only make the problem worse.

Governments and previous governors have tried to solve the flooding problem, with City Hall spending some 40 billion baht on it over the past decade.

But it does not mean that Mr Chadchart is blameless. Regardless of severe climate change, increasingly heavy rains and geography-induced inundation, voters expect their elected governor to somehow resolve the city's flooding problems.

Currently, Mr Chadchart's flood-management plan is no different from City Hall's bureaucratic flood-draining playbook -- one that dwells on engineering mechanisms such as underground water tunnels, water pumps and flood gates.

Not long after taking responsibility for leading the city, he also signed off on sending labourers to drain the garbage-strewn canals and clogged sewage network.

These plans are good when the amount of rain is normal; when the volumes of water can be typically managed.

Yet as we have witnessed over the past few weeks, the city's flood-prevention system has been overwhelmed. With canals and sewage gutters overflowing, excess water simply does not have a place to go.

But a bland flood plan does not mean voters should give up hope.

After getting an earful of complaints, Mr Chadchart -- who is praised for being a good listener -- told city officials to order construction projects that block floods from draining to stop work. He also told them to coordinate with related agencies such as the Royal Irrigation Department and nearby provinces such as Chachoengsao.

Hopefully, we will see more of this commander-in-chief style and less of his daily live feeds on social media platforms.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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