THAI FLOODS: Minister, industry, call for protection measures
Thailand's Thailand’s science and technology minister, Plodprasop Surasawadi, has told a Thai newspaper that he was “one million percent sure” there would be flooding again next year.
“This is a natural phenomenon that you cannot escape,” he said, according to a New York Times (NYT) report. “We are living in a period of climate change.”
The country must build canals and drainage systems and adapt its roads and crop-planting schedule to mitigate future flooding, Plodprasop said.
One problem is that the Thai government lacks a master plan for flooding, David Lyman, chairman of Tilleke & Gibbons, a prominent law firm in Bangkok, told the NYT. Flood prevention is hampered by inter-agency jealousies and the vested interests of landowners who are reluctant to give up property for flood-mitigation projects, he said.
Foreign companies affected by the flooding will not leave the country en masse, Lyman said. The country remains relatively inexpensive and a “nice place to live” despite the flooding.
“Thailand will be able to get away with this once — but not twice,” he said. “They will have to do everything humanly possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The slow moving floodwaters, which are an accumulation from this year’s unusually strong monsoon rains in northern Thailand, are gradually draining into the sea, the report said.
In what is known as the Bang Pa-In Industrial Estate, trucks have delivered massive pumps and workers on Monday (7 November) wre trying to remove water from the area.
The floodwaters descended on the area an hour north of Bangkok in early October. Efforts to defend industrial areas with sandbags and other barriers were futile.
“There was no way we could have held back the water,” Samruay Pakubol, a welder at an automotive parts factory there told the New York Times. Now out of work, he takes passengers on a wooden boat down the streets of the industrial zone. Workers have caught and killed crocodiles swimming in the area, he said.
Dale Schudel, managing director of IntriPlex Thailand, a company that makes components for hard-disk drives, said his factory in nearby Ayutthaya [home to many auto parts makers and Honda's Thai car plant] had floodwaters almost six feet deep. But pumping out the water, which will take about two to three weeks, is only the beginning of the cleanup. Schudel described the water as “highly corrosive.”
“I think you have to ask yourself, if any factory in the world were submerged in that much water, how much damage would there be?” he said.
Schudel predicted that the majority of companies affected by the flooding would rebuild their factories in Thailand. “Their customers are here and their suppliers are here,” he said.
Schudel said he was looking to the government to put in place flood prevention measures.
A large share of the industrial growth in Thailand has occurred on the flood plain north of Bangkok, the New York Times noted. Rice paddies were paved over to make way for factories, suburban housing and shopping malls, blocking the natural path and absorption of water during the monsoon season.