Academics have stressed the importance of planning and research – possibly for another year – on the proposed government water-management programme, along with the setting up of a special body to oversee the projects.
Speaking at a seminar yesterday organised by the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), Sucharit Koontanakulvong, a professor in the department of water resource engineering at Chulalongkorn University, said the possibility of a lack of water in the future due to increased demand could hold back economic growth. There is also a need to prepare for future disasters due to climate change, which should be part of the master plan for future water management.
He said this master plan needed to be flexible, dynamic, and adaptive, while at the same time it should be able to control the demand and supply of water to cope with future uncertainties.
Sucharit said the problems with the current water-management plans were overlapping policies, legal and regulatory barriers, different designs for each plan, and a lack of connection among the policies. There is also a lack of consideration of environmental impacts. Proposals for budget disbursement and the methods of paying compensation would operate separately and under old models.
“There are gaps between the different policies, and we are playing football without a team,” he said.
Sucharit recommended, for the short term, the drafting next year of a five-year Water Development Plan similar to the Energy Development Plan, and establishment of a “superboard” to oversee water-management projects and investments. His long-term plan included the passing of a Water Act to manage the Water and Land Use Agency along with the creation of a Water Board and an operational regulator similar to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.
Seri Suparatit, a flood expert from Rangsit University, said there was a need for improvement in seasonal forecasting in order to come up with a more efficient plan for water management. He also called for more research on climate-change adaptation and disaster risk reduction to cope with future uncertainties. Therefore, the National Council for Peace and Order should postpone for another year the introduction of a master plan for water management.
“What is urgent can be done first, but the long-term plans within the Bt350-billion mega-project should be revised, and it should take a year to hash out the details of the master plan,” he said.
Nipon Poapongsakorn, a distinguished fellow at the TDRI, said the future master plan for water management had to show clearly who would benefit and who would lose out from the government mega-project, while the mindset regarding compensation for people who are affected by such projects should also be changed.
The thinking that some people should sacrifice for the greater good should be eradicated, he said.
He recommended that the National Reform Committee hold public discussions of the water-management programme including experts, benefactors, and those who will be affected, on the possible options of the projects, and to show clearly the projects’ impact on the people and the surrounding environment.
First published: ฺThe Nation, August 20, 2014