CHIANGRAI TIMES – Thailand is a strategic economic hub in Southeast Asia, but last year’s floods could have chased away foreign investors. Intervention plans will now focus on rebuilding trust and promoting sustainable development. Water resources must be managed better than 40 years ago.
Thailand is one of Southeast Asia’s most important trading and industrial hubs. It has become an important centre of excellence in terms of logistics, environment and integrated production. However, the 2011 flood emergency showed how vulnerable the country is, putting at risk foreign and domestic investments. For this reason, business, experts and government officials have decided to take action to prevent future disasters.
Floods hit seven major industrial estates, some under foreign management. Overall, the businesses involved are worth 500 billion baht (US$ 14 billion) in investments, employing about half a million workers. Because of the situation, some companies have moved production to other countries. For its part, the Thai government has tried to reassure investors and develop disaster prevention plans.
“It is necessary to build confidence among the factories within the area to make sure they will not face the same fate as last year,” said Witaya Loenglueyos, executive director of Rojjana Industrial Estate.
For this reason, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management (SCWRM) visited the northern province of Chiangrai to observe the “Doi-Tung model of sustainable development, said Sumet Tantivejkul, secretary-general of the Chaipattana Foundation and advisor to the SCWRM.
Established in 1988 with support from the government and the royal family, this model represents an example of integrated resource management based on reforestation and water controls.
Flooding in Bangkok has shown that problems must solved at the source, in the northern part of the country, where water begins its journey downriver before it arrives in the south, where it can cause flooding, landslides and emergencies. Hence, attention must be paid to water levels, conservation and orderly outflow during the rainy seasons.
For SCWRM expert Utane Chartsopol, current water management practices are too old-fashioned, like “30-40 years ago”. Too much water “is stored in the dams”.
Water must instead be drained more efficiently towards the sea and the five main flood ways must be better managed in terms of time and flows.
However, the central thrust must be restoring “trust” among investors to avoid a flight of businesses and capital to other nations.