Call For Governments to Make Flood Management a Priority

Sweden, STOCKHOLM

Public safety and security organization AGT International has called on governments around the world to give a higher priority to flood management in order to enhance water security and save lives.

“One major flood” could “wash away significant parts of a country’s economic, political and cultural security,” Pieter-Christiaan van Oranje -- head of AGT International in the Netherlands and AGTInternational’s lead on solutions for water and flood management -- said during World Water Week in Stockholm.

Van Oranje was describing a new technology that better predicts, prevents and manages flooding.

“Historical data, seasonal rainfall and wind and tidal information are all important, but they only form part of the picture,” van Oranje told OOSKAnews via email this week.

“The intelligent Flood Management Solution that we have implemented in places such as the Yellow River in China is based on information from multiple sources. This includes historic data, but also brings data from sensors positioned in the defenses to measure and act on internal water pressure within the body of the dike, dike body movement and temperature changes, and information from other databases and the internet. This data, when analyzed by the system, gives a full picture of dike and levee stability.”

The system can also predict where floodwaters may result and provide real-time data for authorities when flooding is already occurring, he added.

“This is vital information for an informed and coordinated emergency response across multiple agencies, as it can advise the order of response and evacuation routes,” he said.

AGT International will be bringing its Flood Management Solution to Thailand. The firm was selected by the Thai government on August 29 to help develop a more advanced flood management system for the nation, which is highly susceptible to flooding.

Severe flooding occurred during the 2011 monsoon season in Thailand, beginning at the end of July and soon spreading through the provinces of northern, northeastern and central Thailand. Flooding persisted in some areas until mid-January 2012. The disaster has been described as "the worst flooding yet in terms of the amount of water and people affected." The World Bank estimated damages caused by the flooding to be at $45.7 billion USD, making it the fourth costliest disaster yet, surpassed only by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the 1995 Kobe, Japan earthquake and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“We need to transform the vast volume of information, systems and tools available today into a logical, manageable decision making mechanism,” said Dr. Royol Chitradon, director of the Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute within the Thailand’s Ministry of Science and Technology. “The key is the ability to understand and optimize our capability throughout the disaster management process, where we believe AGT's expertise will be a valuable contribution to our success."

Earlier this week, the Thai government announced it had installed Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras at major dams and important spots along the country’s main rivers, which help send images directly to the central water data center, located in Bangkok.

The move enables officials in Bangkok to monitor water levels at various dams and rivers and work out immediate solutions before problems develop, Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, of the Thai Prime Minister’s Office, told local media.

He said that the government has already explained its flood prevention plans to investors and members of the diplomatic corps to restore their confidence in investing in Thailand.

Since last years’ floods, water policy, water management and flood prevention are constantly making headlines in Thailand, fueling public discourse and political debate.

On August 30, Pramote Maiklad, a Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management Member and former Thai Royal Irrigation Department Director,criticized the government for what he says is its vague flood prevention and water management plan.

The government is utilizing a $8.9 billion USD budget for the water management plan to prevent a repetition of past flood devastation. But Maiklad claimed the floodway project is still unclear. The weather during the devastating flood last year was unusual and should be chronicled in official documents to allow those concerned to study and find a sustainable solution, he added.

He cited provisions in the Thai constitution, which state that the public must take part in the government’s plan. In this case, he said, the government seems to be paying no attention to the people.

For example, the $330.9 million USD Mae Wong Dam was approved by the Thai Cabinet despite public condemnation. In addition, the dam construction plan was designed without a proper environmental impact analysis. 

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