THE NATION February 8, 2012 1:00 am
Prime Minister to appoint members of Water and Flood Management Committee, which will be led by a minister
The Cabinet yesterday approved the establishment of a single command authority for the country’s water-management and flood-prevention efforts.
This mission of the Water and Flood Management Committee (WFMC), which will operate under the National Water and Flood Policy Committee (NWFPC), is considered of the utmost importance, in light of the havoc wreaked on the country by last year’s floods. The NWFPC will be given a big say in how the Bt350 billion earmarked for the country’s flood-prevention and water-management activities is spent.
This huge sum will be made available for state use soon in the form of special loans.
In the wake of the worst flooding in decades, the Cabinet yesterday responded to a proposal by the Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management (SCWRM) that a single command authority be set up. The SCWRM, which has many water experts and prominent figures including Chaipattana Foundation secretary-general Sumet Tantivejkul and former Royal Irrigation Depart-ment chief Pramote Maiklad at its disposal, will continue to provide advice and recommendations to the NWFPC.
The WFMC will be under the command of the NWFPC, which is chaired by the prime minister. The NWFPC is in charge of formulating policies and making recommendations on budgets, loan management and all work relating to water management to the Cabinet.
The NWFPC will also advise the Cabinet on compensation for those negatively impacted by the WFMC’s operations.
While a deputy prime minister or a minister will head the WFMC, the prime minister has the authority to name its members. The WFMC is tasked with developing, reviewing and approving work plans, formulating work guidelines for authorities involved, and supervising relevant agencies.
“The WFMC will have the power to order state agencies to comply with the work plans too,” the prime minister’s deputy secretary-general, Thitima Chaisang, said yesterday in her capacity as the acting government spokeswoman.
She said the Office of the National Water and Flood Policy Committee (ONWFPC) would be set up to facilitate the work of the WFMC. Other relevant state agencies will work under this office.
The establishment of the NWFPC, WFMC and ONWFPC are the key elements of a draft ministerial regulation on water and flood management proposed by the PM’s Office.
The Cabinet approved the draft yesterday.
Thitima added that the Cabinet had assigned the Council of State to improve relevant laws to facilitate the work of the WFMC.
“We need efficiency to remove obstacles that aggravated the flooding last year,” she said.
At its meeting yesterday, the Cabinet approved plans to dredge 43 canals in Bangkok. Deputy government spokesman Chalitrat Chanthrubekkha disclosed that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and nine ministries including the Interior Ministry would collaborate on the dredging operations.
In a related development, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday said her government had drawn up a rough plan on which zones should be used as water-retention areas in the Central region during the wet season.
“These zones are usually flood-prone. However, we have to compare the planned zones with the map proposed by each provincial authority first,” Yingluck said. “We will choose zones that have the minimum impacts on people.”
She said her government would also talk to locals in the planned zones in advance.
“We won’t announce the name list of the zones via the media first, as that may cause misunderstanding and prompt opposition from people,” the prime minister said.