Govt agrees to keep gap in big bag wall

Froc-BMA yield to help Don Muang residents

The government’s Flood Relief Operation Command and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration have agreed to keep open the gap in the “big bag” barrier in Don Muang to ease the suffering of residents affected by the flood wall.

The agreement was reached after Froc director Pracha Promnok and Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra met to discuss how to deal with a group of angry residents from 20 housing estates who forcefully removed sand bags from the wall on Sunday.

Instead of repairing the broken wall, the two agencies agreed to widen the gap from six metres to 10 so that it could also serve as a spillway to allow stagnant floodwater north of the flood wall to flow through and to serve as a passage way for boat traffic in the area.

They also decided that widening the gap would not worsen the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s overall flood management efforts for the inner city.

MR Sukhumbhand said he had met with area residents earlier yesterday to listen to their complaints.

The residents demanded that the BMA remove either a part or the entire stretch of the barrier on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road. They also wanted a joint committee to be formed to discuss the two options.

MR Sukhumbhand said the decision between Froc and the BMA meant the flooded main roads in the northern part of the capital should be dry in two weeks while low lying areas may still be under water for a longer period.

The governor said he was glad that BMA and Froc could come together to resolve the problem and thanked residents for their understanding.

“The solution should set an example for future conflicts so that people work with BMA and Froc before doing anything based on rash decisions. I want all parties and people affected to work together based on reason,” MR Sukhumbhand said.

Pol Gen Pracha, who is also justice minister, said Froc and BMA would work closely together to overcome the capital’s flood crisis.

“We _ Froc and the BMA _ will stand together to fight this issue unreservedly. There might have been small misunderstandings in the past but I have already personally apologised to the Bangkok governor,” Pol Gen Pracha said.

Froc spokesman Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen said the prime minister and the police chief do not want to exacerbate the problem for flood affected residents, but people needed to understand that any actions need to have a valid reason under the law.

He said the big bag barrier was considered government property and destroying or tampering with it bore legal consequences. Any person caught tampering with the barrier would be prosecuted.

Pheu Thai Party MP for Don Muang Karun Hosakul yesterday denied that he had encouraged residents affected by the flood barrier to remove sandbags from the flood wall.

Mr Karun wrote on his Facebook page that he was not involved in the removal of the sandbags but only acted as a coordinator between affected residents and Froc.

Froc spokesman Thongthong Chandrangsu said the BMA would expedite drainage of canals to take in water streaming from the opening in the big bag barrier. This should ease the suffering of residents inside the barrier and reduce the water level in the Rangsit canal to help residents outside the barrier.

BMA plans to push the water from Khlong Prem Prachakorn through Khlong Bang Khen into the Chao Praya River, Khlong Bang Sue through Din Daeng into Bung Makasan, Khlong Lad Prao through Khlong Shuad Yai into Bung Makasan, and Khlong San Saep through Khlong Orashon into a giant drainage tunnel.

The BMA has also declared three additional communities in Saphan Sung sub-district of Bangkok’s Saphan Sung district as surveillance areas after water levels in local canals continued rising.

Anond Snidvongs, an academic on the Froc’s water-draining committee, said 30cm of water still needed to be drained and that would take about 10 days.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, the opposition leader, said the government should have communicated more with residents affected by the big bag barrier.

And now, a similar dispute has arisen in the Rama II area, said Mr Abhisit.

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