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S. Korean waterway model could be a solution to Thailand's flood problems
Publication Date : 03-09-2013
The Gyeong-In-Ara waterway in South Korea could be a model for Thailand to design and build a giant flood diversion channel, in order to resolve its severe flood problem in the Chao Phraya river basin.
However, details of this project are still yet to be revealed.
"The waterway design would serve as a good guide for us on how to build the flood diversion channel, to minimise the impact of Chao Phraya flooding in Thailand," said Lee Byeong Hyeb, director-general of Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-water)'s Ara Waterway Operation Department.
He said this last week to Thai reporters who visited the South Korean water and flood management project by K-water.
The Gyeong-In-Ara waterway is designed to minimise the impact of frequent flooding in South Korea's Gulpo river basin, where 1.5 million people have been facing severe inundation over the past 26 years due to low-lying land.
K-water is a South Korean state-run organisation that won a Thai government tender to build a flood diversion channel and "monkey cheek" projects to resolve flood problems in the Chao Phraya basin.
The term "monkey cheek" was coined by Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadei as a metaphor to promote local water retention systems and is part of the "New Theory" agriculture. It refers to monkeys filling up their cheeks with excess food. The food is stored and chewed and eaten later. The monkey cheek programme was initially started to solve the flood problems of Bangkok, but has subsequently been replicated all over the country, especially in the northeast.
K-water started construction of the Gyeong-In-Ara waterway in 2005 and finished it in 2011. The project, to connect the Han River with the Gulpo River and the west coast, started operations in 2012.
The waterway - which is 18 kilometres long, 80 metres wide and 6.3 metres deep - drains floodwater for 15 days during the rainy season. While it was under construction, it was used to drain a massive flood in the Gulpo basin in 2010, when the biggest deluge in 50 years hit the area.
In other seasons, this waterway is used as a navigation channel to improve the river's water quality.
Under the project, the main facilities are used to drain floodwater in the waterway: the flood control weir and the diversion gate. Other facilities in the waterway area include commercial, container and passenger ports, a logistics complex, bike route, park and artificial waterfall.
Commercial ships of up to 4,000 tonnes can travel via this channel. Since the waterway started operation last year, the number of commercial ships using this route has increased by 200 per cent.
However, Lee agreed the waterway was not easy to build it affected over 3,000 residents living in the area. K-water had set up a huge US$1 billion compensation fund and spent three years negotiating with local people to minimise impact of the project.
"We had to negotiate with local people continuously. At the same time we also had to provide accurate information about the project and help them understand the benefits of the project. This was very important step before we could start the project," he said.
The Thai government had planned to build a 289km-long, 245-metre-wide canal covering more than 43,239 rai (6,918 hectares) through six provinces, namely Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Uthai Thani, Chai Nat, Suphan Buri and Kanchanaburi. The 150-billion baht (US$31 million) project was to be carried out by K-water.
However, the project was place on hold the Thai Central Administrative Court in late June, until public hearings and an environmental impact assessment are conducted. The project will be allowed to go ahead when these requirements are met.
Korea and Thailand have different geographic and social conditions, but Lee said the most important thing for such a project was knowing how to dredge a canal and improve the waterway.
K-water managing director Monton Panupokin said K-water could not reveal the details and design of this project as K-water still has not signed a contract with the Thai government. "All the details of this project will be revealed to the public after the contract with the government is signed," he said.
Kwater managing director Monton Panupokin wants the government to come up with an exact timeline to sign the contract with K-water so that it can proceed with its plan. But there have been concerns among environmental experts over the impact of the project.
Assistant Professor Komsan Maleesee of the Faculty of Engineering at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Lat Krabang previously told The Nation that he did not think the flood-diversion channels would solve the flood problems, whether they were on the eastern or the western banks.
"Geographically, the Chao Phraya River is flat in its last portion where it links to the sea. So, it's not suitable for draining water," he said.
He advised the authorities not to waste money building flood-diversion channels, and said that creating water-retention areas near the Chao Phraya River would be a wiser option.