CHIANGRAI TIMES – His Majesty the King has expressed his concern about deforestation and the resultant flooding in Thailand and has urged the government to take severe action against those responsible.
The King stressed the need for the government to plant more trees and to take harsh punitive steps against “greedy” civil servants who allowed illegal deforestation to occur.
These approaches would help to both preserve forests and prevent flooding, said His Majesty.
The King was speaking to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and members of the Strategic Formulation Committee for Water Resource Management (SCWRM) at Siriraj Hospital yesterday.
The committee was presenting its report on urgent water management and flood prevention plans to His Majesty following the prime minister’s inspection of seven provinces in the lower North and the Central Plains that were badly affected by last year’s devastating flood crisis.
His Majesty the King is widely recognised as an expert in water and flood management.
The King has introduced several projects to cope with floods, including “kaem ling” (monkey cheeks) water retention areas to absorb run-off.
His Majesty said last year’s flooding was particularly disastrous because the deluge happened so rapidly and suddenly that it could not be drained away to the sea quickly enough.
The King blamed this on deforestation, which has been rampant from the North down to the central regions, as well as in some areas of the South.
Deforestation has also contributed to the frequency and severity of landslides in the North, His Majesty said.
The King added that deforestation of different kinds of trees leads to different problems. Fast-growing trees are cut down sooner, while slow-growing trees yielding high-quality hardwood are attractive to poachers, and when they are cut down, it takes a long time for them to grow back. Both kinds of deforestation increase the risk of landslides, he said.
His Majesty advised cultivating mixed forests of both fast-growing and slow-growing tree species. He pointed out that slow-growing trees put deep roots firmly into the ground, helping to prevent landslides.
The King laid the blame for the destruction of Thailand’s forests and consequent natural disasters on “greedy” state officials.
“The problems stem from those who are greedy,” His Majesty said.
“Hardwood forests that are destroyed are difficult to recover. The blame lies with some civil servants who are greedy and crave money.”
The government must protect the forests and severely punish those involved in deforestation, the King said.
Meanwhile, Kijja Pholphasi, former director-general of the Royal Irrigation Department and an SCWRM member, yesterday said the committee’s long-term flood prevention plan would be based on His Majesty the King’s advice in 1995, when Thailand last suffered severe flooding.
“Under His Majesty the King’s recommendations, excess floodwater must be diverted to natural floodway’s in the eastern and western parts of Bangkok and quickly drained out into the sea,” Mr Kijja said in an interview with the Inside Thailand radio talk show broadcast on FM97 yesterday.
“However, the problem is that there are many communities and industrial estates located in the natural floodway’s, resulting in the obstruction of water flow.
“The government must look into this problem and see what it can do.”
Mr Kijja said the SCWRM had also assigned the Royal Irrigation Department to find measures to speed up the drainage of water from the Chao Phraya River in Nakhon Sawan to the sea to minimise flood impacts on downstream provinces, including Bangkok.
Two options are improving existing canals to allow the faster flow of floodwater through canals on the eastern and western sides of the Chao Phraya River and then out to the sea, and creating new canals to increase water flow capacity.
The new canals would divert water from the Chao Phraya to the Tha Chin River in the West and Pa Sak and Bang Pakong River in the East, Mr Kijja said.
These new canals should be finished within three or four years, he said.
“His Majesty also suggested last month that we should improve street canals which run along the Eastern Ring Road and Phutthamonthon Sai 5 Road,” Mr Kijja said.
“These two street canals will greatly help the drainage of northern water flow to the sea.”
Author – Bangkok Post