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Phuket: Solving the flooding problem

PHUKET: Are Thais and foreigners on the same page with regards to Phuket’s environmental issues? In my second article I will explain the environmental news from last month’s Thai-language press.


By Kanokwan Homcha-aim

Tuesday 30 October 2012, 10:15AM


Floods in Patong earlier this year

Floods in Patong earlier this year

Over the last month or so, headlines in the local English newspapers have often related to flooding problems. Often, many areas in Phuket experience flooding following heavy overnight and incessant pouring rain.

The areas worst affected, as repeatedly reported by the press, include the areas of Pang Muang Sai Kor Rd. and the Patong Hospital intersection of the Patong Municipality, as well as the Phuket municipality. However, these areas are just the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, information from the Study for the Development of Phuket Water Management Master Plan (Phuket Provincial Office, Feb 2012) indicated that the drainage capacity of natural streams and canals throughout the island has worsened due to the expansion of the urban area in addition to several road constructions narrowing down the waterways.

At present, the general feeling around the island is that we are getting used to floods. We have become familiar with widespread inundation throughout the island, impassable roads, bottleneck detours, soggy feet from dirty water, and the backbreaking work of cleaning the mud out of roads and shops.

To be fair, some local authorities have tried to solve flooding problems. For example, new larger pumps were installed in front of Patong Hospital earlier this month, while in Phuket Town, as reported by Manager Online on September 19, the municipality allocated B10 million for prevention projects.

However, we cannot keep relying on new and larger pumping stations. Flood management in Phuket requires prevention measures covering upstream to downstream. Construction measures should start simultaneously with non-construction measures. The strict enforcement of law and regulation must be adhered to. For example:

  • Upstream – prevent land encroachment and manage soil and water conservation measures in order to reduce the speed/amount of surface run-off to lowland areas

  • Midstream – control urban growth and expansion through urban planning laws that facilitate the water drainage capacity of the area

  • Downstream – provide adequate detention basins and more efficient drainage systems as well as control water quality before its diversion to the sea

  • Construction sites – prevent debris, sand and soil from falling into waterways which lead to logging and the disruption of water flow

  • Households, schools, and markets – raise awareness/issue penalties to people who throw rubbish into waterways.

Moreover, is there a way to take advantage of heavy rainfall and runoff?

Ironically, Pornthep Bunyapaluek, an engineer officer at the Phuket Royal Irrigation Project, said that much of the rainfall and overflow had missed the reservoir.

“Phuket’s water supply is not enough for the long, dry high season. In some areas, water rationing sometimes becomes essential,” said Mr Pornthep.

To solve the water shortage problem in the long-term, as the Siangtai Daily Newspaper reported on October 2, the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation (PPAO) has set up the “One Tambon, One Water Supply Project”.

Manop Leelasuthanon, Chief Administrative Officer said that every year the PPAO receives complaints from local administrative organisations regarding water shortages; especially in the dry season.

“Therefore, the PPAO together with the Phuket Royal Irrigation Project established this project which aims to provide funds for small water supply projects in each sub-district throughout the island.

“The idea is not only to ensure water supply in local areas, but also to potentially prevent and solve flood problems” said Mr Manop.

 

 

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