In an exclusive interview with FutureGov, Vichai Bandasak, Mayor of Pakkret City, a Thai city with a population of about 80,000, shares his challenges on managing the City’s flood crisis and how technology plays a part.
The general Pakkret Municipality area is low-lying and densely populated along the Chao Phraya River. During the raining season, Pakkret City is often affected by floods.
“We have been successfully in reducing the impact of flood on the community. About 20 years ago, 30 per cent of the area were affected. Last year, we brought that down to 5 per cent. My aim is to drop that figure to zero,” says Bandasak.
Two years ago when one of the biggest floods hit Thailand, only 2000 people in Pakkret, out of its 80,000 residents, were affected by the flood.
Much of the people’s lives - both culturally and for their livelihood - revolve around the river, so the work of building a dam has been opposed by some.
Bandasak and his team has been using social media, particularly Facebook, to educate the City’s residents. “The reach and engagement on Facebook have been positive. Most of the audience consists of working adults and students. Many of them now support the City’s cause.”
Besides engaging the people, Pakkret City’s Facebook account plays a more important role of communicating flood warnings to the public.
“Other than broadcasting warnings over the local radio stations and sending out SMS notifications, Facebook is an effective channel to alert people of a pending flood. We keep them updated on the water level and the location of evacuation sites,” he adds.
Although not all of the population are on Facebook, the working adults and students who are connected will always pass the message on to their family members.
Pakkret City also has a 24-hour monitoring and information centre equipped to deploy sandbags and other flood mitigation tools. Residents can also visit the centre to gather information, such as nearby evacuation sites which often are temples or sports stadiums.