Thursday, November 3, 2011

PM backs down on sluice gate Threat to city prompts move to slow water flow

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is looking to go back on her order to widen the controversial Khlong Sam Wa sluice gate by instructing officials to negotiate with residents on narrowing the gap.
Lifeline express Residents from flooded communities in Don Muang district catch a special train which takes them into the city as the main Vibhavadi Rangsit Road remains impassable due to rising floodwater. THITIWANNAMONTHA
Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra, meanwhile, claimed she had agreed to return responsibility for the watergate to him.
Ms Yingluck's about-face came after MR Sukhumbhand invoked a clause in the disaster prevention law and ordered police to guard BMA officials who entered the area to repair the gate that had been damaged by local people. The repairs were completed last night.
The prime minister invoked the disaster prevention law on Oct 21 to take full control of all flood operations as runoff from the North started surging into Bangkok.
A man wheels a sick relative to his car parked on the tollway in Rangsit area. PHONGTHAI WATTANAVANITVUT
"I have ordered a committee to negotiate with residents [living upstream] to narrow the gate so that less overflow will enter Bangkok," she said.
Ms Yingluck said the gate had to be narrowed to regulate water flow.
"We are talking to residents and we believe they will cooperate," she said.
On Monday she ordered the BMA to widen the sluice gate to one metre after angry protesters destroyed parts of it while police officers looked on.
A government source said high-ranking officials and ministers conducting flood relief operations had provided Ms Yingluck with two options regarding the Khlong Sam Wa sluice gate during a meeting yesterday.
The first was to destroy the Bang Chan sluice gate to allow the overflow from Khlong Sam Wa to reach Khlong Saen Saep. The second was to narrow the Khlong Sam Wa gate.
Ms Yingluck's decision was made in response to the flood threatening the Bangchan Industrial Estate, located downstream.
Bangchan estate was yesterday racing to strengthen its flood defences after City Hall's Department of Drainage and Sewerage issued a warning urging it to brace for possible flooding of up to 2.5 to 3 metres.
Water was yesterday seen rising from drains inside the estate opposite the Saha Union factory on Seri Thai Road.
Business owners yesterday met to discuss flood management plans.
If all efforts fail, the Bangchan estate will be the eighth to be hit by the floods. Five are in Ayutthaya and the others are in Pathum Thani province.
Monta Pranootnarapal, governor of the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, said Bangchan is still protected and so far there have only been minor leaks.
Workers rush to repair the sluice gate at Khlong Sam Wa which was damaged by residents furious at being flooded for too long. PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD
"The estate is next to the Khlong Saen Saep canal, and so there might be leaks while sand bags are being used as a barrier," she said, adding the estate should remain safe if the sluice gate is not widened further.
Meanwhile, Ms Yingluck insisted her government was ready to cooperate and provided assistance to the BMA in repairing the sluice gate by arranging for police officers to protect the BMA workers.
She said a joint working committee of representatives from the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, Royal Irrigation Department, and the BMA was established on Tuesday to manage the situation in Khlong Sam Wa.
She also said she would discuss the flood situation in Thailand with other world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum on Nov 12-13 in Hawaii.
Ms Yingluck said the Foreign Ministry is currently keeping ambassadors from the international community up to date on the flood situation.
MR Sukhumbhand said the repaired gate would also help avert flooding on Ramkhamhaeng and Ram Intra roads. Part of Ram Intra has already been heavily flooded.
"I have been informed informally that the government has given the BMA the authority to manage the Khlong Sam Wa sluice gate," MR Sukhumbhand said.
The governor said the current height of the gate is at 1m as ordered by the newly-appointed joint working committee.
He insisted that if the height of the Khlong Sam Wa gate is increased, the height of the sluice gates at Khlong 8 and Khlong 10, which is supervised by the Royal Irrigation Department, should be lowered.
Charupong Ruangsuwan, chair of a joint coordinating panel, said that a 3-km flood wall needs to be built on Hathairat Road to help regulate water in Khlong Saen Saep.
He said that a large amount of water from Khlong 2 is passing through Khlong Sam Wa sluice gate and some is flowing over Hathairat Road and into the Min Buri area.
"If we don't set up a flood barrier, fixing the sluice gate will be useless because we cannot regulate the water level in Khlong Saen Saep. And Bang Chan industrial estate will be affected."

BMA announces new evacuation areas

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has declared several areas that will be immediately evacuated and one "closely-watched area".
- Sai Kong Din Tai sub-district of Klong Sam Wa district.
- Sam Wa Tawan Tok sub-district of Klong Sam Wa district.
- Nong Khang Phlu sub-district of Nong Khaem district.
- Sena Niwet 1 housing estate in Lat Phrao district.
- Northern Phasicharoen (now being closely watched).
An underpass is filled with water near Wat Phra Si Mahathat in Laksi district. RATTASEEMA PONGSAN
Helicopters are readied to leave the 11th Infantry Regiment base in Bang Khen district, which is being inundated. SURAPOL PROMSAKA NA SAKOLNAKORN
A boy swims in floodwater outside The Mall shopping centre on Phetkasem Road. WISIT THAMNGERN
Zebras stand on a rare patch of dry land at Safari World on the outskirts of Bangkok. PATTARACHAI PREECHAPANICH
Armoured vehicles are parked on a tollway to escape floodwater at the main air force base in Don Muang district. THITI WANNAMONTHA