Not holding water – Phuket authorities blameless for floods

Phuket authorities, blameless for this year’s floods, have decided that the sale of government land was behind the recent inundations and landslides on the island.

During a disaster mitigation forum at Phuket Rajabhat University, authorities were able to demonstrate their innocence again and again. The new owners of former government land built an unauthorised dam, completely contrary to the purpose of canals on the site. Local agencies repeatedly blustered that the issuance of land title deeds covering the public canal irrigation area was the main factor behind the flooding.

Patong is spending 10 million baht (US$300,000) on dredging drainage canals to resolve a situation entirely of their own making. Despite attempts to shift the responsibility, an avoidable problem was created by the same local governments’ poor oversight of rubbish and construction material disposal.

Patong Mayor Chalermsak Maneesri told the forum that he was not to blame – new owners of some drainage ditches had built a dam that obstructed the water flow during torrential rain.

Chalermsak protested that the municipality is trying to mitigate global warming by changing LED lights along roads, reducing the use of foam and composting – a laughably long-term solution to an immediate problem. Chalermsak’s solution is that when Patong (and China) stops pouring pollutants into the atmosphere, Phuket residents will be able to drive home after work. Current problems are due to wilfully ineffective governance and have nothing whatsoever to do with street lighting or crop yields.

Tambon Pa Khlok Mayor Panya Sampaorat, also not to blame, said the title deed issue was the cause of the problem, despite the obvious conclusion that any fault must lie with whoever sold the deeds in the first place. Some 38 square kilometres of beachside were affected by landslides, Panya said.

Surin Yotharak, vice president of the Sa Khu Tambon administration, also blamed the sale of government land and anyone but himself and his administration. Surin said the fault lay with the construction of buildings, not with the local government officers who sold the land for development in the first place. Sa Khu is to spend around 40 million baht (US$1.1 million) to restore runoff areas near Phuket Airport.

In no way responsible f0r the events, Phuket City Mayor Saroj Angkanapilas suggested authorities need to throw good money after bad and buy up plots that can hold large amounts of water and procure more water pumps. Saroj is very keen to see the construction of large, expensive drainage tunnels that may help the flow of water into the sea.

Phuket News

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.