Natural Disasters and Water Relief: Are We Ready?

December 1, 2011

Bangkok is bracing itself for a surge of water, and its residents fight both to keep it at bay and to find enough of it to drink!  Due to the difficult circumstances, it is often hard for people to get access to clean water.

The worst flooding in the Thai capital in half a century has triggered panic buying that has emptied supermarkets of bottled water. As a result of submerged highways and the closure of most of the production plants, drinking water - or rather clean drinking water- is fast becoming a luxury item.

Major plants supplying the city and its population of 12 million are placed in the central provinces, some of which are under two metres of water.  Supermarkets are subsequently racing to find new producers and to import crates of bottled water.

Patchara Rattakul, chief operating officer of Haad Thip Pcl that distributes Thai Nam Thip water, told Reuters: ‘Right now the water shortage is critical. I agree with the government policy of importing water from outside the country to solve the short-term problem; we have no other choice.’

The floods have had serious consequences: Serm Suk Pcl, producer of Pepsi and Crystal drinking water, has shut down its plants in Nakhon Sawan and Pathum Thani, two of the worst affected provinces.

It’s not just a question of clean water not reaching the stores.  The flooding has also affected the water used by the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA) that provides tap water to the city of Bangkok. While numerous residents have complained about the odour and yellow colour of the tap water, MWA assistant governor Vikrom Suwanchom states that there should be no contamination or supply concerns.   ‘We are supplying 10 million people and this is sufficient”, he told Reuters.  “There is no problem with the quality of the tap water’, he added.

In reality, the situation appears critical. Although Asia is some distance away from Europe and whilst this type of disaster is relatively unknown in Europe, the hypothetical question has to be asked: would our infrastructure and water supply system be strong enough in a situation such as the one facing Thailand?

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