Water management expert slams floodways plan

A Japanese water management expert has criticised Thailand's plans to deal with its flood problems.

A specialist from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) suggests dams and floodways proposed by the Water and Flood Management Commission (WFMC) are unnecessary.

Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi, the commission's chairman, has said the 1.3-billion-baht upper and lower Mae Yom dams would be part of the government's 300-billion-baht water management project. Other major components would include two 120-billion-baht floodways capable of discharging a combined 1,500 cubic metres per second on the eastern and western side of the Chao Praya River.

The eastern floodway will be a 200km structure used to divert water from south of Nakhon Sawan to the Gulf of Thailand.

Speaking at a seminar, "From the integrated water resources viewpoint," JICA academic Yusuke Amano said neither dams nor floodways were necessary for the water management project.

The seminar was held to present JICA's water management solution for flood control. Mr Amano said JICA has studied a water management master plan proposed by the Strategic Committee Water Resource Management (SCWRM) _ later adapted by the WFMC with the added proposal of new dams and floodways.

Mr Amano said the study showed SCWRM's proposal would have reduced inundated areas in the Chao Phraya basin from 20,000 sq km down to 16,000 sq km during the severe flood in 2011.

He said new dams and floodways were excluded from the project.

Instead, the 100km-long Ayutthaya bypass channel is proposed to divert water from north of Ayutthaya to Bang Sai district.

Combined with effective operation of retention area and existing dams _ Bhumibol, Sirikit and Kwae Noi _ Mr Amano said total inundated areas could be decreased to 16,300 sq km.

"The canal system in the Chao Phraya basin is not bad. The operation of water reservoirs is effective enough. So it's not necessary to build floodways," he said.

"The key is to secure retention areas and seek ways to minimise damage to agricultural areas."

He said JICA's proposal was cost-effective and had a good economic internal rate of return. The cost of the project is estimated to be less than 190 billion baht.

Mr Amano said JICA had estimated the project cost of SCWRM's proposal might reach more than 500 billion baht, not 300 billion baht as the government had claimed.

SCWRM's committee member Chukiat Sapphaisal said SCWRM's proposed floodways would create flood-safe zones for urban expansion. He said floodways were designed for both flood protection and drought mitigation which would improve irrigation in agricultural areas.

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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat & Patsara Jikkham