Isan civil group rebukes junta over who to blame for water mismanagement

A civil society group in Isan, Thailand’s northeast, say that the military government should not only blame politicians on water mismanagement, but civil servants and other public agencies as well.

On Sunday, 31 January 2016, Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesperson of the Prime Minister's Office under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and PM, revealed a 12 years water management plan of the government.

He told media that the current government has come up with a ‘far-sighted’ policy on water management which would over the next 12 years prioritise on local water management focusing on district and provincial level instead of regional water management initiative.

The junta leader spokesperson then claimed that in the past water management initiatives were not effective because it was not planned in accordance to the needs of specific areas by separating water management plans for agricultural and residential areas.

The previous initiatives focusing on building reservoirs and water distributing plants failed to manage water resource sustainably because they were used by politicians to gain votes.

“The PM looks into the problem thoroughly and wants to fix the whole system without caring about the votes, but the initiative needs time and a large budget to implement,” said Maj Gen Sansern.

In response to the government proposal, Suwit Kulapwong, Secretary-General of the NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD) of Isan, said on Monday that the military government cannot blame water mismanagement on politicians alone.

In the past 20 years, the Royal Irrigation Department and other relevant public agencies spent billion of baht to prepare information on plans to manage the water of Chi, Mun, and Mekong River for politicians in Isan without studying the problems thoroughly.   

In order to solve the problem, Suwit said “the water management plan should be based on public participation. Not just setting up forum about [water management] plans while the projects are already set to forge ahead and invited only supporters of those plans to participate.”

He also warned that the current plan to divert water from Mekong River to irrigate Isan region to combat drought would fail, saying that the plan would cause environmental effects on the Mekong and Isan farmland.

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