June 4, 2018, at 0900hrs, at the Outer Santi Maitree Building, Government House, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha presided over the workshop on national water management to create understanding and awareness of all concerned sectors on current water situation, and holistic picture and guideline of the country’s water management. The workshop is also aimed to promote operation integration of 38-water management related agencies.
Secretary-General of National Office of Water Resources Somkiat Prajamwong reported on water situation during the rainy season of 2018 that the average rainfall is expected to be 5-10% lower than normal. Rice farming will be conducted in 60 million rai of land across the country, and water usage of all sectors is estimated at 88,771 million cubic meters during the season. Toward the end of the season, water budget for dry-season farming (2018/19) is estimated at 60,064 million cubic meters. The Government has ordered National Office of Water Resources to be the main agency in integrating management of water during the rainy season, preparing necessary equipment, and closely monitoring water situation. According to the Secretary-General of National Office of Water Resources, Water Resource Act has also been drafted, and the 20-year water strategy will be amended to be in line with the 20-year national strategy.
The Prime Minister, then, delivered an opening statement of which gist is as follows:
In accordance with Goal 6 of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Clean Water and Sanitation, and the national water resource management strategy, the Government strives to manage water resources, both surface and subsurface water, in a systematic manner to tackle drought, flood, and other water-related problems, as well as to protect the ecosystem/forest watersheds, and to promote systematic connection of river basin networks.
The Government has laid out a new water management mechanism which comprises the following pillars:
Legal aspect: Water Resource Act has been drafted, and is now under the deliberation of the National Legislative Assembly. The law will take effect before the end of this year.
National-level organization on water resource management: National Water Resource Commission was established, with the Prime Minister as chair, to set directives and key operation plans according to the national water strategy. National Office of Water Resources was also established to tangibly mobilize policies and directives, monitor, and follow up on the operations.
Water resource management strategic plan: the cabinet approved water resource management strategy (2015-2026) as a guideline for the country’s water management operation. The strategic plan comprises 6 following strategies:
•Strategy I: Management of water for consumption: developing water supply in village and urban areas, improving existing waterworks system, expanding school water networks to cover nearby communities, ensuring quality and affordable consumption of water throughout the country.
•Strategy II: Water security for production sector: ensuring sufficient water budget for sustainability and security of agricultural production and industrial sectors, as well as other economic sectors, developing and increasing water irrigational areas to accommodate economic development, especially in the East (Eastern Economic Corridor), and special economic zones in other regions, developing non-irrigational water sources, restoring natural water sources, etc. Major projects to be implemented during 2019-2022 are water budget development plan for the Eastern Economic Corridor, increase of Bhumibol Dam’s water budget, increase of Lam Takhong Dam’s water budget, and water diversion projects for Mekong, Loey, Chi, and Mun Rivers. These projects are aimed to enhance the country’s water budget security.
•Strategy III: Flood and inundation management: alleviating flood damages in urban and major economic areas, dredging primary waterways, enhancing water drainage capacity, developing 12 water containment areas around the Chao Phraya River basin, clearing waterway obstructions in the South, and in other parts of the country, developing provincial water drainage plans, etc. Major projects to be implemented during 2019-2022 are construction of Lam Nam Phung-Nam Gam water gate in Sakon Nakhon province, Chao Phraya flood alleviation plans, construction of Bangban- Bang Sai water-drainage canal in Ayutthaya province, and construction of drainage tunnels in Bangkok.
•Strategy IV: Water quality management: ensuring satisfactory level of water quality, developing wastewater management system in 201 areas, enhancing capacity of existing wastewater management systems, reducing volumes of wastewater in Chao Phraya, Tha Chin, Pasak, Mun, and Chi River basins, recycling treated wastewater, rehabilitating rivers and canals throughout the country, etc.
•Strategy V: Rehabilitation of forest watersheds and degraded areas: balancing the ecosystem through rehabilitating of forest watersheds, preventing soil erosion in the areas with steep slopes, developing forest watershed conservation plan, etc.
•Strategy VI: Management and administration: establishing and systematizing water-related organizations, law, database, and publicity, enhancing capacity of national water management, promoting public participation and awareness, evaluating operational performances, developing related technologies and innovations, establishing hydro informatics data center as an ad-hoc center in case of water-related emergencies, etc.
The Prime Minister added that he has ordered all concerned sectors to prepare for the upcoming wet season, with the National Office of Water Resources acting as main agency to integrate operations related to water resource management. He also thanked workshop participants from all sectors for their keen cooperation, and affirmed the Government’s commitment to address problems and promote sustainable water resource management for the benefits of Thailand and its people.