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Difficult to predict floods, hence preparedness is the best defence

Experts deliberate at Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) as the Institute returns home.

Difficult to predict floods, hence preparedness is the best defence

Panel discussion featuring Dr. Seree Supratid, Dr. Masahiko Nagai, and Dr. Sutat Weesakul and moderated by Mr. Warin Sachdev.

Panellists discussed the lessons learnt from the Great Thailand Flood of 2011, and deliberated on future scenarios at the discussion organized by the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) to mark its return to the post-flood Pathumthani campus. Ranging between options of flood retention areas and flood bypass channels suggested by Dr. Seree Supratid of Rangsit University; changes in flood plains management and alternatives for diversion channel suggested by Dr. Sutat Weesakul of AIT; and better management suggested by Dr. Masahiko Nagai; experts called for immediate action and preparedness to avoid potential disasters.

The event at AIT was organized to mark the resumption of operations at AIT, which was flooded by more than two meters of waters in October 2011. AIT President Prof. Said Irandoust remarked that the venue of the event titled “AIT Returns Home: Towards a Sustainable Future” was the AIT library building, which could be called “Ground Zero” for the Institute. No one could have imagined that this building, which had suffered colossal damage, could be the venue of the first major event organized by AIT after it achieved its status of an Intergovernmental International Organization on 30 January 2012.

Beginning the discussion, Dr. Seree remarked that though climate forecasts are uncertain, this year the forecast is for lesser rain compared to last year. He added that there is a risk of storms in the Pacific basin, and it is not known how many of them will affect Thailand. “It is difficult to predict”, he added on a cautionary note adding that during the past decade, weather patterns in Thailand have fluctuated from drought to floods. In light of difficulty in prediction, preparedness holds the key.

However, there is a huge amount of accumulated rainfall in the North, and the capacity of the river to carry the waters is limited. He delved on the option of creating a flood retention basin of two million rais, and creating an East flood bypass channel or an East and West flood bypass channel. His other recommendation was to proceed on an inflow forecasting of dams, risk communication, decision support system and land-use planning.

Moderated by famous television anchor, Mr. Warin Sachdev, the one-hour panel discussion was broadcast live on TAN TV Network.

Dr. Sutat stated that during 2011, the accumulated rainfall was 48 per cent greater than the mean, which broke the record of 1953. He added that the dykes, which were not strong collapsed leading to an overflow through the floodplain, and this could not be controlled. He remarked that floods in Thailand occur once in 4-5 years and the flood return period of the 2011 event is approximately 100 years. He suggested both software and hardware solutions for long term sustainability. We need a change in flood management system in the floodplains, as well as use of retention area, creation of dykes and flood diversion techniques, he added. He also suggested alternatives for diversion channels to manage the huge volume of water.

Dr. Nagai, while presenting satellite images of the 2011 flood stated that the flood affected area crossed 45,000 square kilometres, which was a higher than 33,600 square kilometres in 2010. However, this presented a worst ever experience for the people in Thailand. He cited the example of a quote from Japan, which stated “Never build below this stone.” This is an example of lessons which we can learn from our experience, he said.

The event at AIT witnessed participation from dignitaries from various countries. They included H.e.Mr. Sohail Mahmood, Ambassador of Pakistan; H.E. Mr. Joao Freitas de Camara, Ambassador of Timor Leste; Mr. Vu Quoc Chinh, Counsellor, Embassy of Vietnam; Mr. Jaideep Nair, Counsellor, Embassy of India; and Mr. Marco Meten, Third Secretary (Press and Culture), Embassy of Germany. Other distinguished guests who attended the event included Ms. Sirichon Dejdecha, Logistics and Administration Coordinator, Telecom Sans Frontieres; Mr. Arnaud Bilecki of Sodexo; Mr. Kiyoshi Kirono and Ms. Kornkanok Naprasertful of Ebara Coporation; Dr. Regine Lefait Robin, representative of Institute de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) in Thailand, Ms. Julia de Perrefont from French Agency for Development; Dr. Subin Pinkayan, AIT Hall of Fame Inductee and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thailand; and Dr. John D. Nelson, Engineering Analytics, Inc., USA. 
Welcoming all, the AIT President Prof. Irandoust stated that while AIT is rebuilding itself, it will follow the principles of Safety, Security and Sustainability, what he termed as 3S principles. He added that AIT plans to emerge as a Knowledge Hub in the area of floods.

The photo gallery of the event can be accessed at these links on Facebook:
Gallery I


Gallery II