Should local residents have a say in the building of dykes and other flood control structures? Are flood management decisions negotiable between the authorities and the people?
Some people would agree that they are. Since October, several communities in Bangkok and elsewhere have opposed the way in which the authorities carried out their flood diversion plan. In several cases, such opposition has been successful.
On October 17, some 300 residents near Khao Mao Canal in Ayutthaya blocked efforts by irrigation officials to stem the flow of the waterway in order to prevent flooding in areas downstream. After hours of talks, the authorities agreed to halt their plan.
On October 21, residents of Don Muang were furious with authorities’ plan to build an earthern dyke, fearing it would cause heavy flooding in their area. Don Muang MP Karun Hosakul and neighboring Pak Kret MP Montri Tangcharoenthavorn intervened to stop the feud and negotiated a solution that was acceptable to both parties.
On October 23, residents of Rangsit in Lak Hok area protested against the setting up of temporary dykes deemed crucial to preventing the overflowing of Rangsit Canal, which could lead to flooding in Paholyothin area of inner Bangkok.
On October 29, PM Yingluck had to scrap plans to dig road channels between Rangsit Canal 9 and 10 to enhance flood drainage after her plea to local residents failed to gain their support.
On November 10, some one thousand residents of Keha Chumchon Thonburi 2 blocked Rama II road and demanded the dismantling of a sandbag dyke built by a nearby community. After some negotiation, police agreed to take down the barrier and the crowd dispersed.
Other examples of community-level opposition to building of dykes came from already flooded areas. Their fear was that any sort of barriers would both worsen and prolong the flooding of their communities.
Are these communities selfish? Did they not have any regard for the “majority”?
Not entirely. True, opposition to flood barricades will almost certainly expand flood-stricken areas. But the authorities cannot guarantee that setting up these barriers would indeed prevent water overflow. Some dykes that had been put in place were successful in containing or diverting water. Others were not. How well can these dykes hold up is really uncertain. Meanwhile people caught in the flooded side of the dykes are sure to be further inundated.
It’s important to incorporate the public as key stakeholders in the flood management process. After all, any decision taken by the authorities on building flood barricades will directly affect some sections of the population. They should have some say in it, even though it means the authorities are not getting their way. The authorities should, as much as possible, negotiate their way with local residents, as opposed to giving them no option. Through negotiations, at least a better understanding over the flood situation can be achieved by both parties.
 The dyke was later found destroyed. See an interview given by Pak Kret official to Nation Channel on October 22: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JW0lblJdGOc
 See cases of Bang Bua Thong, Nawang, Bang Plad, Klong Sam Wa, Lam Luk Ka, for instance.