Thai court delays start of flood prevention works

Thai court orders hearings on $11B of flood prevention, water management projects

Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) -- A Thai court on Thursday ordered the government to hold public hearings before it begins $11 billion of crucial water management and flood prevention works.

The projects costing 350 billion baht ($11.2 billion) were initiated after Thailand was hit by the worst flooding in half a century in 2011. More than 800 people were killed in the floods.

A Central Administrative Court ruling said the schemes which include flood diversion channels and reservoirs "will have a wide impact on people" and "might cause severe effects on environment and natural resources in communities."

It said public hearings as well as environmental and health impact assessments must be completed before any hiring for design and construction can go ahead.

The verdict overruled the government's original plan to have private companies that won construction contracts carry out the hearings.

The court said results from surveys conducted by private companies could be biased and inaccurate since the sponsors of the hearings are profit-driven entities.

Anti-Global Warming Association chairman Srisuwan Janya, who filed the lawsuit against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and government water agencies, had hoped the court would halt the projects completely.

He told reporters the court's order will give the public the opportunity to be involved in the government's water management plans.

Last month, four companies from China, South Korea and Thailand won bids for nine projects in the government's master plan, which also covers irrigation, anti-erosion works, river bank maintenance, weather forecast and emergency warning systems, and delta management.

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