Thursday, June 5, 2014

Frustrated Thais work on flood management in legislative vacuum

Thin Lei Win at the Thomson Reuters Foundation: On a blistering May afternoon, consultants hired by the Thai government unveil the next phase of a scheme aimed at preventing a repeat of Thailand’s 2011 floods, its worst in half a century. Yet the snazzy presentation fails to persuade local leaders and villagers from provinces west of the capital Bangkok.

They are unhappy with plans to dredge canals, as well as the focus on large infrastructure projects. What’s more, construction work that’s already finished was done without their knowledge or consent, they complain.

By the end of the four-hour session at the Nakhon Pathom office of the government’s irrigation department, which oversees water management in Thailand, the two dozen community representatives are frustrated and distrustful. “If water overflows into farm land, what happens? If there’s damage, who will be responsible?” asks one community leader, voicing widespread scepticism in the room over the scheme’s effectiveness. Questions about flooding are on the mind of many as the monsoon season approaches.

Adding to the worry, Thailand’s political paralysis - following an army coup last month – has left in limbo a law that could help address water management problems exposed by the 2011 floods, such as the lack of a central agency to handle water resources.

Memories of those floods - which killed 800 people, affected nearly 14 million and disrupted global supply chains - loom large at the irrigation department meeting.

....The integrated water law is now stuck with the Law Reform Commission of Thailand. Under the previous constitution, the final draft of the law could be proposed either to the government or parliament....

2011 flooding near Bangkok, shot by DANIEL JULIE, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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