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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     3 November  2011

Thai electricity head says dams not at fault

Unusually heavy rains, not dam mismanagement, were the main factor behind the severity of this year's floods, says Sutat Patmasiriwan, the governor of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat).

If not for the country's northern dams, the floodwaters inundating much of the country would be three times greater than now, he said.

Egat, together with the Royal Irrigation Department, are the two agencies responsible for managing the country's dams and the water discharges into the nation's irrigation network.

At the start of the line are the Royal Irrigation Department and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), the two agencies responsible for managing the country's dams.

Many pundits, such as Smith Dharmasarojana, the chairman of the National Disaster Warning Council, have been scathing in their criticism that water levels in the Bhumibol Dam on the Ping River and the Sirikit Dam along the Nan River, were held way too high for the start of the monsoon season.

The critical period was in July, when water levels began to rise sharply and the focus of the country and bureaucracy was on the general elections and formation of the new Pheu Thai-led government. But Mr. Sutat says it is unfair to drag the agency into political mudslinging over the cause of the floods, which he pinned on the abnormally heavy rains this year.

"The country is in the middle of a serious natural crisis. Rather than accuse each other, we should be cooperating to solve the problems," he said.

Mr. Sutat said the popular belief that water releases by the upper northern dams contributed to the floods was wrong.

Just the opposite, he said.  If not for the two major dams, the Central Plains would be inundated by more 30 billion cubic metres of water, or two to three times the amount today.

The Irrigation Department says that over the first 10 months of the year, 11.488 billion cubic metres of water were collected at the Bhumibol Dam, with 4.085 billion released downstream.

For the Sirikit Dam, 10.3 billion cubic metres of water were collected with 6.573 billion released.

The Central Plains are now flooded from water running from five rivers: the Ping, the Wang, the Yom, the Chao Phraya and the Sakae Krang rivers.

The Bhumibol and Sirikit dams, which supply 20 percent of the water used for irrigation in the central provinces, were running relatively low at just 45 percent to 50 percent capacity from the end of 2010 to this past May due to drought.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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