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Phuket calls for self-rule amid flooding, over-development

PHOTO: PhuketBuyHouse

The thorny issue of a ‘special economic zone’ for Phuket has made its way to the top of the pile again. The recent severe flooding in Phuket has led to renewed calls for the island to be allowed to elect its own governor and for tourism revenue to be reinvested in local infrastructure.

As a province, Phuket contributes the largest returns to the Thai central government coffers. In turn, island stakeholders and residents are regularly complaining that they don’t get a similar proportion spent on the island’s failing infrastructure and services.

Now, the president of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation is calling for power to be decentralised and for the island to be able to elect its own governor. The governor is currently appointed by central government in Bangkok. (Bangkok’s governor is the only elected ‘governor’ in Thailand)

Rewat Areerob adds that the island currently generates over 400 billion baht a year in tourism revenue and that needs to be pumped back into infrastructure that allows the province to withstand extremes of heavy rainfall versus drought. Headlines in April and May often refer to drought and the island’s water catchments at extremely low levels, only to be reporting severe floods a few months later (as was the case again this year).

“In the past, when it rained, we had areas that absorbed the water, so heavy rainfall was not a problem. But now these areas have been converted into housing projects and condominiums, so the absorption areas have become smaller. The government cannot keep up. Earlier this year, Phuket faced drought problems, so we were forced to buy water for consumption, but now we are experiencing flooding.”

Khaosod English reports that Rewat is calling for better drainage pipes or pathways for housing estates and condominiums. He also wants to see an increase in water retention areas, using existing public land, where water can be stored for dry spells.

Chalermpong Saengdee and Mr. Thitikan Thitipruettikul from the Move Forward Party agree. The Phuket MPs say there are ongoing issues with urban management and water management on the island, with neither issue aligned. As a result, houses, buildings, and roads continue to be developed without a proper study of waterways or any planning for effective drainage.

Meanwhile, the director general of the Department of Public Works and Physical Planning says that to fix Phuket problems, officials need to revise a master plan prepared by the ministry between 2016 and 2018. Phongrat Phiromrat says this plan was devised to control flooding in urban areas but now needs to take into account new areas prone to flooding as a result of rapid growth and development in Phuket.

“The bottleneck problems in many areas of Phuket are due to the past, when there were fewer surrounding structures and the existing channels could handle the water flow well. Overflowing water could spread to adjacent areas that were uninhabited and did not cause problems. But now that there are houses, buildings and communities, the canals can no longer handle the overflow and the communities are affected.”

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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