Flood risk 'low' as La Nina looms
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Flood risk 'low' as La Nina looms

The more intense rain forecast to come in the next few weeks as a result of the La Nina phenomenon won't cause a repeat of the major floods of 2011, according to the Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR).

Citing weather reports which predict less frequent rain this year, ONWR chief Surasee Kittimonthon said the likelihood of a major flood similar to the one in 2011 -- which saw large swathes of the Central Plains and North submerged for weeks -- remains low.

The assurance came as weather forecasters predicted more rain would fall in the next few weeks, as the La Nina weather phenomenon looks set to begin next month.

Mr Surasee said the National Water Resources Committee (NWRC) has come up with a set of measures designed to mitigate the effect of the increased precipitation in an effort to prevent floods as the rainy season enters its peak.

The measures were approved by the cabinet on June 4, and state agencies have been ordered to roll them out before the rainy season peaks.

On June 7, the NWRC also approved a number of projects designed to improve the nation's water management capabilities -- in particular, water retention capacity -- to make the best use of the increased rainfall over the next couple of months.

Not only would these projects reduce the risk of flooding during the rainy season, but the excess water stored in these projects could be used in the dryer months, helping to improve the nation's overall water security.

Construction must be completed within 120 days of budget allocation, he said, adding some agencies will start to receive the funds for the projects on July 12.

Mr Surasee said the ONWR has been closely working with the Thai Meteorological Department and Hydro-Informatics Institute to compare this year's rainfall pattern with the one seen in 2011.

Rainfall was more frequent and intense at the start of the rainy season in 2011, due to the combined effect of five major storms which passed over the country over the space of a few months, he said. This year, however, authorities recorded below-average precipitation at the start of the rainy season, though rainfall is expected to pick up with two storms forecast to pass over the country later on in the year.

Mr Surasee said the government is more prepared to deal with the situation, noting efforts to cut down on red tape have simplified the execution of emergency plans and responses.

He said that back in 2011, 48 agencies were involved in the nation's water management, causing a lot of overlaps which slowed budget disbursement. "The efforts have helped to alleviate the impact from disasters, particularly in flood-prone river basins like the Chao Phraya, Mun and Chi rivers," he said, noting the current water management policies place emphasis on proactive measures, and preparations for potential emergencies in the future.

"In the event of a crisis, a frontline water management centre will open, bringing together various agencies to help with flood mitigation efforts," he added.

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