Large scale dam projects, including the controversial Mae Wong and Kaeng Sua Ten dams will be completed within five years, says Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi.
Speaking during the Yingluck Government Meets the People programme yesterday, Mr Plodprasop said the dams would be part of the government's 350 billion baht water management and flood prevention plans.
He expects protests because local communities must be relocated for the construction to proceed. However, he said the government would do its best to help affected people and minimise negative impacts. He also said that all the environmental impact assessments would be carried out for each project.
Mr Plodprasop, who chairs the government's Water Management and Flood Prevention Commission, asked people who might be affected to make a sacrifice for the public interest. He said severe flooding in 2011 affected two million people and caused 1.4 trillion baht in damage to one-fifth of the country.
He hopes that the government's water management and flood prevention projects will prevent such severe flooding from recurring.
Mr Plodprasop's push for the dam projects has revived protests from dam opponents, especially the controversial Mae Wong dam in Nakhon Sawan and the Kaeng Sua Ten dam in Phrae.
A group of Phrae villagers have set up a camp at the proposed Kaeng Sua Ten dam site to prevent authorities from inspecting the area and vowed to "fight to the death" if the government went ahead with the dam. They said the dam would not solve flood and drought problems in the Yom River basin and would damage the pristine teak forest of Mae Yom National Park.
Mr Plodprasop yesterday admitted that the projects would damage forests, but he promised to fully rehabilitate natural resources.
"We will replace every plot of affected forested area with three times the amount of forested land," Mr Plodprasop said.
Apart from building dams and reservoirs, the water management scheme will also include improvements to irrigation methods .
Meanwhile, Supoj Tovichakchaikul, Natural Resources and Environment Ministry deputy permanent secretary, said that the new Water Ministry should be operating by October so that it can take over water management and flood prevention projects and supervise all government agencies that deal with water.
He said the ministry would be large and oversee mega projects as well departments that typically receive large budgets, including the Royal Irrigation Department, the Water Resources Department, the Ground Water Resources Department, the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority and the Provincial Waterworks Authority.