B1.5bn to unclog Bueng Boraphet
Project underway to increase rainwater storage of country’s largest lake, writes Apinya Wipatayotin
Clearing the enormous sedimentation of Bueng Boraphet — the country’s largest freshwater lake in Nakhon Sawan province — is an urgent issue that authorities are tackling to combat the province’s problem of rainwater storage and water scarcity.
Bueng Boraphet has been clogged with staggering amounts of sediment that have prevented the lake from storing large volumes of water during the rainy season.
Its ability to store water remains at only one million cubic metres against the original capacity of 180 million cu/m. For decades, various sediment, including debris from man-made activities and from farming, have fallen into the lake.
To maximise its capacity for storing water, the government recently approved 1.5 billion baht for the rehabilitation of Bueng Boraphet.
This budget will be spent across nine projects, with work beginning this year and expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
Under the plan, the government is set to clear the lake of its sediment to expand Bueng Boraphet’s water storage capacity from 180 million to 300 million cu/m, equivalent to a third of the Pasak Jolasid dam — one of Thailand’s big four dams.
From the total, 300 million baht will be allocated to scoop two million tonnes of sediment out of this gigantic lake that is as large as 132,639 rai, equivalent to half the size of Samut Songkram, the smallest province in the country.
The task of removing the sediment from the lake started this week and is being carried out by The Department of Royal Irrigation, soldiers and the Department of Fisheries.
Somkiat Prajamwong, secretary-general to the Office of National Water Resources, said this is the first effort towards rehabilitation made in decades.
Despite the government knowing about Bueng Boraphet’s excess levels of sediment and many proposals drawn up to tackle the issue, nothing had happened.
Mr Somkiat said the latest efforts towards rehabilitation have been made possible because of a joint collaboration between state agencies and more importantly, support from the local community.
This month, local administration and the local community will work together in demarcating the real boundaries of the lake.
Mr Somkiat said this demarcation is a crucial step for managing the land and all future development projects.
“This [demarcation] is the most difficult part. Thanks to the local community’s cooperation who have agreed to save the lake for their living and earning,” he said.
Under the demarcation project, the Treasury Department has surveyed the land and found 33 villagers living around the lake, verifying that the land falls under the department’s responsibility, which must find the scale of the lake and prevent further encroachment.
After the demarcation is complete, the Treasury Department will allow local communities to draft and manage land use plans for the area.
Villagers will be permitted to live and make a living around the pond, under the condition that they must help with preventing land encroachment and protecting the environment.
Known as the largest freshwater natural lake and one of the major watersheds in the country, Bueng Boraphet provides a habitat for 148 fish species and over 100 types of water plants.
Before it was clogged by swathes of sediment, the huge lake served as a major flood draining area, saving the province and nearby areas from flood in the rainy season and discharging water for farming purposes during periods of drought.
Despite its ailing condition, this lake has helped with absorbing 1.26 million cu/m of rainwater from the Sinlaku storm.
The 1.5 billion baht rehabilitation plan will write a new chapter for Bueng Boraphet, allowing it to be used for many purposes.
Under the scheme, the land will be divided for three purposes.
In the first area of 66,250 rai, harvesting will be permitted; 31,189 rai will be reserved as a watershed zone with certain activities allowed and the remaining 35,000 will be an “off-limit zone”.