Friday, January 27, 2012

Governor on notice about floods threat

Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit yesterday threatened to remove Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra if he fails to cooperate with the government in dealing with the potential flood threat this year.

Speaking before chairing a meeting on water management in Bangkok, Mr Yongyuth said he was authorised to take actions including dismissing the city governor.
"I can do it by law but that would be the last resort," Mr Yongyuth said. "Flooding requires a concerted effort. Bangkok must understand we have to work things out together."
Section 52 (8) of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Act authorises the Interior Minister to dismiss the Bangkok governor.
"The government isn't pressuring City Hall," Mr Yongyuth said. "But as a local administration organisation, it is under the government's supervision. It is not an independent state."
Mr Yongyuth said he would see to it that politics would not come into play in the government's water and flood management.
Conflicts in coordination between the BMA and the central government have been highlighted as one factor that impeded crisis management during last year's floods. The BMA governor hails from the opposition Democrats while the government is led by Pheu Thai.
Mr Yongyuth allayed fears about reports that major reservoirs are filling up, saying authorities have learned their lesson from last year.
According to the Royal Irrigation Department, major reservoirs across the country currently hold 57,430 million cubic metres of water, or about 82% of the storage capacity of all combined.
The amount of water has increased 9,962 million cubic metres compared with last year.
Meanwhile, Meteorological Department director Watcharee Virapun, said that, like last year, rainfall will come early this year.
"We expect to see early rainfall from the end of next month and for it to come throughout the summer season," she said.
"What I am concerned about is the high level of water stored in the dams.
"The department has informed the dam authorities about the expected early rainfall."
Narong Thaiprayoon, director of Bhumibol Dam in Tak province, said he was more concerned about possible storms than early rainfall.
"To serve flood prevention, we plan to reduce the water level of the dam to 40% of total capacity, lower than the earlier target of 50%," he said.
The BMA plans to spend 2.73 billion baht on water management projects by July, BMA officials said.
Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi said yesterday the government and the BMA have reached a 12-point deal to prevent the centre of Bangkok from flooding.
Under the agreement, the government and the BMA will work together to prevent the heart of Bangkok from flooding.
Other agencies including the armed forces will be enlisted to help.
There will be embankment projects and improved draining and pumping operations. The BMA will allocate 67.5 million baht to the army to fund the dredging of 29 canals.
"Residents of Bangkok can rest assured that the city will not be flooded. If flooding occurs, it will be brief and cause the least amount of damage," Mr Plodprasop said.
"As for the neighbouring provinces, they are part of the floodway."
Bangkok Deputy Governor Theerachon Manomaiphibul yesterday hailed the meeting as a good start to handle flooding efficiently.
"I think we have the same goal, which is to help Bangkok and other provinces cope with floods," he said.