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Topic Summary

Posted by: thaiga
« on: March 15, 2012, 11:42:50 AM »

Nonthaburi residents say things will be different if history repeats itself
Having learned some lessons, residents in Nonthaburi's Rattanathibet housing estate are now willing to allow floodwater to flow through their community with no dyke or floodwall to stop it.

Prayong Sripum, head of Rattanathibet housing estate in Nonthaburi’s Bang Bua Thong district, collects morning glory near his home. He bought the boat during the severe floods late last year and he collects the vegetable regularly to prevent the fibre-glass boat drying out and cracking. BY TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD

Last year, the estate which overlaps Bang Bua Thong and Bang Yai districts was inundated for almost two months by floodwaters two metres deep. Around 3,000 households suffered.

"The estate is vulnerable to flooding again this year," says community head, Prayong Sriphum, basing his premise on the large amount of water currently stored in major dams ahead of the rainy season.

He recalled that his family had to live on the second floor of their house for nearly two months. His two-storey home which was badly damaged by the floods is still being repaired and has so far cost tens of thousands of baht.

"Right now, the estate is not thinking about prevention and have only six water pumps as we think dykes will make things worse as they would obstruct water flow.

"Here, floodwater will be allowed to flow through unimpeded," he says.

Mr Prayong said he has heard many flood-prone areas have constructed their own floodwalls which would block the flow of water.

"Our community is no longer prepared to do as others have done. So if flooding comes again, we will only have sandbags, water pumps and manpower to help each other," he said.

He said since the last flood receded, he goes out to inspect the water level in Khlong Bang Praek every day. In the event the water rises significantly, this information will be announced to all residents via community radio.

"However, if floodwaters reach the same levels as last year, it would be useless to adopt major prevention methods," he said.

Rattanathibet housing estate is under the supervision of the local tambon administrative organisation which recently announced the dredging of surrounding canals, the removal of thick water hyacinths and the construction of more water gates.

Surapol Chaengjai, consultant to the estate's committee, says the community has also learned not to place too much faith in the government. He recalled the floodwater last year came without warning in the early hours of Oct 19.

"We believed so much in the government and that the flood situation was under control. But the floodwater came at night, so a warning was not issued," he said.

"If it reoccurs this year, when it reaches Ayutthaya, we will assume we will be hit for sure. We would then issue a warning based on our own assessment, not the government's," he added.

Lt Navanrat Panthong, a resident, built a brick wall in front of his house last year to protect his home and soon realised it was in vain. After the water receded he left it standing.

"I cannot predict whether flooding will happen again or not. Though the wall can't prevent major floods, it costs nothing to leave it there and it might help prevent smaller floods," he said.

Another villager Pasakorn Naknan has less furniture on the ground floor these days. There are only two big wooden benches, a large cabinet and a table.

"Everything else remains on the higher floor as I'm not confident we will be saved from floods this year," he said.

At present, around half of residents have received the government's 5,000-baht compensation package for flood-affected victims. Many for sale signs are also visible as a lot of home owners look to move to other places to avoid a repeat of last year's disaster.

Flood Factors is part of an occasional series looking at the lessons learned from last year's floods.