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Focus on prevention

By the time you read this opinion I hope that the crisis involving the Chiang Rai cave rescue effort is over with great success.

This commentary is about another lesson not learned in Thailand, not about the rescue itself.

It is common knowledge that the government has spent little to prepare for disasters that befall us, preferring rescue and recovery to prevention and mitigation. Everybody gets a pat on the back for a successful rescue. Nobody gets a pat on the back for a good planning and mitigation effort. Nobody gets elected for a good invisible job done.

It is by the grace of God that Thailand, given its well protected geography buffered by our neighbours, has been able to avoid major natural disasters throughout its history. But regardless of how lucky we have been the game is changing. Global warming is bringing an every higher amount of water to fall on our land. A much more severe cycle of drought and flooding is upon us.

It is commonly known by scientists and researchers that to plan and manage water resources, both flood and drought, an accurate terrain data or digital elevation model (DEM) must be available for analysis. A DEM is a 3D CG representation of a terrain's surface created from a terrain's elevation data. The single most important piece of data to predict flooding is this piece of information.

Although other pieces of data, rainfall records, river flow rates and past flooded areas are also important, they are not as important as DEM. Only accurate DEM can accurately predict where flooding will occur using mathematical modelling and the abundance of computing power that is available today. You might think the last major flood that affected us all would have taught the government a lesson that we need an accurate DEM. And you might learn that even that flood has not motivated the government to allocate a small fraction of what's been budgeted to "manage water resources" to acquire this data.

In fact, throughout the history of Thailand we have never had high accuracy DEM data and with enough coverage to predict or plan how to manage our ever dwindling freshwater resources. Our neighbours Malaysia and the Philippines have recently completed countrywide, high accuracy DEM acquisition and have started making plans and policy using this data. There is no similar DEM acquisition project in the works for Thailand.

To the specific case of the current cave rescue effort, water has been filling the cave faster than can be pumped out. The rescuers do not know where the water is coming in from. They have to resort to having people walk the terrain to try to find these possible places. While they have found crevices on the top and side of the mountains it is certain that these crevices are not large enough to take in water at the rate that is being pumped out.

Rather it is likely that the water is running down the slope to collect in valleys in the vicinity and from there are leaking into the cave. If we had an accurate DEM we could have easily focused on these water collection basins and perhaps stop or slow down the leaks.

Let me speak up as a Thai: We are still living by the adage -- "When the sun shines we need no umbrellas, but when it rains it is too late to buy one."

ML Saksiri Kridakorn


Prayers for the missing

Let's all pray for the strength to the young footballers of Thailand and their coach to keep on going until they find a way to come out of the caves.

Let's all pray for those in trouble and going through tough times all over the world.

Hemant Desai


Halal airline rage soars

Re: "No pleasing everyone", (PostBag, June 23).

Martin R says that if I had not been told that the food offered was halal meat, then I would never have known the difference, implying that it is perfectly acceptable to pass off halal meat as non-halal, and presumably vice versa. This is deceitful and deceptive -- people have a right to know of the origin of any meat that is offered to them to eat.

He deflects at my objection to eating religiously slaughtered halal meat by bringing up the subject of halal non-meat food items such as breakfast cereal, rice, pasta and so on. I did not say I object to eating halal food per se, my objection, which I clearly stated, is to meat that has been religiously slaughtered and religiously "blessed".

Food items such as breakfast cereal, rice and pasta obviously do not contain meat and will not have been "blessed" so are irrelevant to the argument.

He sneers at my objection to eating halal meat despite me giving valid reasons as to why I object.

Oh, and he also claims that I was outraged! No, Martin, I was not outraged. Mildly annoyed, yes, but not outraged.

In fact, I would suggest it is you Martin who is the one that is outraged as you have written in at least twice, to chastise me for the temerity of making a complaint against an airline!

Peter Atkinson


Maybe Germany need glasses

The local gas station is giving away free glasses, each with the name of a competing country.

I just got Germany.

Cheers to that.

Alec Bamford


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