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19 April 2024

Thailand in hurry to put flood defences

By Reuters

Thailand is racing to implement water management schemes costing 300 billion baht ($9.4 billion) to prevent a repeat of last year's flood disaster, but companies want to see even more haste while some experts say things shouldn't be rushed.

Thailand's worst flooding in at least five decades forced the closure of seven industrial estates in central provinces from October last year, causing billions of dollars of damage and putting about 650,000 people temporarily out of work.

Many factories have still not reopened but industrialists are already worrying about the next rainy season, barely four months away, and want the government to start acting on specific, concrete plans rather than outline broad ideas.

"We still have faith in the government and what they're trying to achieve," said Setsuo Iuchi, president of JETRO Thailand, the local arm of Japan External Trade Organisation.

"I rather believe that people want to be here and keep on investing but, yes, we can't deny that more clear-cut actions by the government have to be made."

Companies like Hana Microelectronics Pcl and Aapico Hitech Pcl, whose plants were inundated, have called on the government to come up with both short-term remedies and long-term solutions to prevent future floods.

Only one or two companies, such as U.S.-based chip maker ON Semiconductor Corp, have said they are closing facilities completely after suffering from the floods.

Some big names have announced sizable investments to either restore old plants or build new ones.

This week alone, Toyota Motor Corp said it would spend 8.2 billion baht to build a new plant and restart one closed in 2010, and fellow Japanese firm Minebea Co Ltd, a bearing maker, said it would invest $75 million to build a new plant.

Deputy Prime Minister and incoming Finance Minister Kittirat Na Ranong outlined water management plans last weekend involving seven projects, including flood prevention measures along the Chao Phraya river that flows from the north and through Bangkok.

It involves reforestation, the construction of dams and reservoirs and city planning. "We have to move quickly. This cannot wait," he said.

One of the seven projects is a 10 billion baht plan to plant trees and build dikes along upstream tributaries of the Chao Phraya. Another, costing 50 billion baht, involves the construction of reservoirs in the river basins where the floods developed.

Other projects include the building of floodways in 2 million rai (800,000 acres) of farmland plus irrigation systems, the cleaning-up of canals and waterways and establishing a data system for water management.

Some 120 billion baht is earmarked for the construction of floodways and flood diversion channels, with work this year involving the improvement of dikes, sluice gates and canals.