Integrated Flood Disaster Preparedness and Relief: The Lam-Ta-Khong Basin Nakhon Ratchasima Provinc
Royal Irrigation Department

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The Lam-Ta-Khong Basin covers 869,298 acres where its catchment area is entirely situated in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. The Lam-Ta-Khong River, 220 km long, serves as the main river of the basin. The river flows through residential areas, totaling 800,000 persons, in Pak-Chong, Si-Kew, Sung-Noen, and Kham-Tale-Sor Districts as well as Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality. The Upper Lam-Ta-Khong Basin is quite steep and accommodates the Lam-Ta-Khong Reservoir with a storage capacity of 314 million m3. By contrast, the Middle and Lower Lam-Ta-Khong Basins are slightly steep or rather flat. Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality is located at the Lower Lam-Ta-Khong Basin. The Lam-Ta-Khong Reservoir was completed construction in 1969. The basin has been repeatedly suffered extensive flood damage in the year 1982, 1983, 1996, 2000, 2007, and 2010. The continual heavy rain in the upper basin combined with steep topography generally caused rapid runoff to the lower basin where the dense population resided. The encroached buildings in a natural waterway also impeded water drainage, thus flood triggering. Besides, there was no absolute flash flood prevention system before flowing to residential areas. This resulted in recurrent flooding in the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin almost every year. A flood warning in the basin held low accuracy due largely to lack of real-time rainfall information in the area. A notice of flood warning in one specific area resulted in widespread panic over neighboring areas because there was no source of public access to verifying information. Moreover, a rescue attempt could not reach all impacted persons because of poor cooperation between responsible agencies. These boosted the loss of faith in public governance among local residents. In 2010, for example, flooding in Nakhon Ratchasima Province was caused by the accumulation of 3-day average rainfall of 200 mm during October 14-16. The hardship spread over 32 districts with an effect on 335,946 households. The damage of public buildings was worth US$73 million that excluded economic impair due to the opportunity loss of being a transportation hub to the northeast region, attracting tourists to visit, and doing related business. It should be noted that the damage from flooding would be escalated in relation to the social and economic growth.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The director of the Regional Irrigation Office (RIO) 8 under the Royal Irrigation Department of Thailand realized that the core cause of flooding at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin is to have no precise rainfall data to analyze the runoff quantity as well as lacking of information exchange in order to execute the flood warning and evacuation. The director of the RIO8 then sought work integration among related agencies and proposed the initiative to the governor of Nakhon Ratchasima Province. There had been an establishment of Data Processing and Analysis Center (DPAC) under the RIO8. An emphasis of collaborating among relevant agencies in data exchange, notice of flood warning, and evacuation was also encouraged. Non-structural measures were applied in order to require cooperation among related agencies to report the amount of rainfall and runoff in an area and to deliver a monitoring and warning notice based on agreed criteria. The measures incorporated an area-based approach, data analysis system, work integration among associated agencies, and single command by the governor to stay alert in an upcoming flood. This was implemented as a pilot project at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin and met with success which later served as a model for other basins in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. The process of compiling real-time rainfall data was exercised through a network of local government agencies throughout the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin. The staff of each local government agency was provided both a training session and rain gauge for recording rainfall amount appropriately and promptly reporting to the DPAC. The DPAC was a center to collect and to validate all rainfall data from every station and then analyze the flood risk of each area. The analyzed data was sent to the Disaster Warning Center of Nakhon Ratchasima Province (DWC). The DWC, which was supervised by the governor, acted as the single-command center to evaluate all relevant data and to impose an action plan to a vulnerable area accordingly. The monitoring and evaluation system was also established by means of updating the situations so as to monitor the flood movement and to avoid the rescue redundancy. Furthermore, a website was created to provide access to updated water information. Data dissemination via radio stations, television channels, and local cable TV was employed to ease information access by the public and to reduce the confusing data. This helped resume the faith in public governance. The cooperation of assembling real-time rainfall data among upstream public agencies helped keep downstream provincial authorities well informed and become ready to face with a sudden flood. In addition, the RIO8 possessed real-time data to accurately analyze water situation and passed it to the DWC to exercise an immediate effort at monitoring, warning, evacuating, or rescuing to people in the flood risk areas. In 2011, the initiative completely prevented floods at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin whereas the north and central provinces were greatly affected by major floods. It was evident that Nakhon Ratchasima Province was able to save budget from installing an expensive flood warning system.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
In the past, the RIO8 was solely responsible for collecting rainfall and runoff data. There was no cooperation with local agencies. The collected data was therefore outdated. The RIO8 analyzed data and issued a warning to provincial authorities that cautioned through an organization hierarchy including districts, sub-districts, and villages. The warning and rescue attempts were regularly confused and delayed, thus causing extensive damage to the public. Local residents had very limited access to correct information. In 2011, the RIO8 organized the DPAC. The RIO8 not only called for cooperation from different agencies that owned rain gauges, but also distributed rain gauges to upstream public agencies, i.e. local administrative organizations (LAOs) and districts, to report rainfall/runoff data to the DPAC before 8:00 a.m. Diverse specialists at the DPAC analyzed data for a monitoring and warning notice during September - November. The notice was delivered via telephone, facsimile, and SMS to the DWC. The DWC then re-assessed all information and sounded a warning to flood risk area. The upstream LAOs and districts also issued a warning to the downstream LAOs and districts. The channels of water information and warning access included website,, radio stations, television channels, and local cable TV.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Four key strategies were developed at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin for flood prevention as follows: First, at provincial level: the DWC was founded to monitor water situations and to deliberate water information from the DPAC under the RIO8, districts, and relevant organizations. The DWC chaired by a governor was the final decision maker to deliver a flood warning to vulnerable areas. This was to avoid getting confused from unjustified information. Second, at basin level: the basin is divided into three parts including the Upper Lam-Ta-Khong Basin prior to the Lam-Ta-Khong Reservoir, Middle Lam-Ta-Khong Basin, and Lower Lam-Ta-Khong Basin after the Lam-Ta-Khong Reservoir. The upstream LAOs and districts assigned their staff or volunteer to examine the rainfall amount and water level in a waterway and then reported to the DPAC. The DPAC analyzed the upstream data and submitted it to the DWC in order to re-evaluate and issue a flood monitoring or warning from the upstream localities to downstream localities based on mutual criteria. Concurrently, the neighboring towns and villages also exchanged water information during flash floods to stay alert. Third, at municipality level: Mayor of Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality set a coordinator team to collect water information in the Lam-Ta-Khong River from relevant agencies, e.g. the DWC, the DPAC, Si-Kew Municipality, Sung-Noen Municipality, Kok-Gruad Municipality, and the Lam-Ta-Khong Operation and Maintenance Office. The collected information aided in issuing a monitoring and warning notice at the Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality and Nakhon Ratchasima provincial hospital and to make communities ready to face with an upcoming flood. This aimed to alleviate life and property damage from flood disaster. Fourth, at the RIO8 level: the RIO8 launched two measures, that is, structural and non-structural measures. The structural measures included construction plans during the year 2011-2015. In 2011, the budget was partially allocated and the construction was incomplete. The non-structural measures were therefore put in place to relieve and resolve the 2011 floods. The non-structural measures involved the establishment of the DPAC to be responsible for analyzing the rainfall and runoff data and sending to the DWC; rain gauge installment covering the whole basin; website development to disseminate water information and warning criteria; and, staff gauge provision used for warning purpose at major basins.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Different agencies at Nakhon Ratchasima Province participated in resolving flood disaster as the followings: First, the upstream LAOs assigned a local staff or volunteer to check rainfall amount and reported to the upstream districts as well as to notifying water level in a watercourse to the downstream LAOs. Second, the upstream districts gathered rainfall amount from the upstream LAOs and forwarded it to the DPAC before 8:00 a.m. every day. Meanwhile, the upstream districts informed a watercourse condition to the downstream districts. Third, public agencies that possessed rain gauges, including the RIO8, the Kao-Yai National Park, the National Park Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department/Nakhon Ratchasima Office, jointly delivered rainfall amount to the DPAC under the RIO8 every day. Fourth, the DPAC under the RIO8 analyzed all data and sent a report to the DWC. Moreover, the DPAC exchanged information via SMS with heads of public agencies as well as posting information on the website, Fifth, the DWC received the report of rainfall and runoff amount and flooding conditions of local areas, re-evaluated, and finally gave a flood warning notice based on specified criteria. Sixth, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation/Nakhon Ratchasima Office (DDPM) supported rain gauges and distributed to the upstream LAOs and districts. The DDPM was the core agency to rescue disaster victims. Seventh, Mayor of Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality acted as a coordinator to deliver a warning to flood risk areas in the municipality. Eighth, mass media including television, radio, and local cable TV took information from the DWC and continued disseminating correct and updated information to the public. And, ninth, people collaborated with public agencies to follow the action plans and warning criteria. This resulted in ultimate reduction of life and property damage.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
There were five resources contributed to mobilize the initiative. First, human resources: a network of 40 staffs from relevant LAOs and districts was created to monitor and report the amount of rainfall and runoff daily. All of them were trained to use apparatus, to fill in a report form, and to understand warning criteria. Personnel from the DPAC and DWC were also informed about details of work procedures and warning criteria. Five technical personnel including irrigation engineers and hydrologists from nearby irrigation offices under the RIO8 were appointed to work at the DPAC during the peak rainfall, from September to November, every year. Second, resources management: the flow charts of work procedures at the DPAC and DWC were documented to specify responsible persons and work duration at each step. Details of work flow and steps on information exchange among networking staffs were also provided to ease the practices. In addition, authority of each allied agencies was clarified to ensure the smooth operation. Third, material resources: more rain gauges were supplied to significant local areas, totaling 32 stations, in order to promote real-time report of water situation. Telephones, mobile phones, and facsimiles were used to facilitate data exchange. Existing personal computers and software, e.g. Internet and Microsoft Office, were applied to process data. The RIO8’s website was initiated to encourage public access to water information. Fourth, financial resources: the budgets, US$2,000, for buying rain gauges allocated by the DDPM. Furthermore, the regular budgets, US$6,667 and US$10,000, of the RIO8 were allocated for website design and overtime allowances for staff at the DPAC, respectively. Fifth, technology resources: the RIO8 was keen on organizing a database of daily and annual rainfall to be used for flood analysis as well as setting data processing for flood warning. The RIO8 wrote a program that automatically converted rainfall amount into runoff. This helped speed up a work process. The RIO8, moreover, identified flood warning criteria at the locality and basin levels as well as providing staff gauges for warning at major basins. Finally, the RIO8 used diverse means to disseminate water information, for example, telephone, SMS, facsimile, radio, and website.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The year 2011 was marked as the first year of change in flood disaster preparedness and relief at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin. This leaded to four concrete outputs that contributed to the success of the initiative as follows: First, forming a network of public participation: the RIO8 generated a local network, so called volunteers, to exchange data and flood warning. The volunteers were trained to assist public officers in collecting water information, monitoring a staff gauge, and passing a notice of flood warning to adjacent areas. This built a sense of unity among local residents, thus enhancing performance in monitoring and evacuation. The network covered the areas of 40 sub-districts at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin. In the past, data collection used to be done solely by public irrigation staff. Second, work integrating between public agencies: data and flood warning delivery from the upstream LAOs and districts to the downstream LAOs and districts helped reinforce data accuracy and prompt response to the water situation. The real-time data facilitated reliable water analysis that was the base for deliberating a flood warning. Third, establishing a clear work system: the work flow chart was made to clarify work procedures, responsible agencies, and contact persons at each step. The DPAC and DWC were founded to serve as core function in analysis and command, respectively. Flood prevention and mitigation was much effective due to clear roles and responsibilities among integrated parties. Work redundancy was completely resolved. This made the DWC be able to quicker issue a notice of flood warning to the public 72 hours in advance compared to 6-12 hours warning in advance before the initiative was introduced. Fourth, disseminating information to the public: before the initiative, flooding always brought chaos to the locality. There was no source to re-check water information and flood warning for the general public. After the initiative, the DPAC launched a website to ease access to water information. A notice of flood warning was frequently announced via television, radio, and cable TV.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The following six systems were introduced to periodically monitor and evaluate the implementation. First, verification of raw data: the daily amount of rainfall and runoff from the network was reported by filling in an agreed form. The form included a runoff table for the whole basin. However, relevant LAOs and districts just provided data for their own areas. The runoff table indicated water movement in the basin. The Database Team settled by the DPAC could easily notice irrational data from the runoff table and re-check with related LAOs and districts. Second, verification of data analysis: analyzed data would compare to not only raw data from different locations, but also to data analyzed by relevant agencies. The Data Analysis Team formed by the DPAC was in charge of this verification in order to ensure reliable analysis before passing to the DWC. Third, data verification before issuing a flood warning: the DWC would justify received data from the DPAC with other sources of water information, for example, the Thai Meteorological Department and the National Disaster Warning Center. This helped the DWC to deliberate a notice of flood warning to the public. Fourth, operation verification: after commanding, district offices would collect operation incurred and reported to the DWC that served as a monitoring agent of related activities including flood warning, evacuation, and economic zone protection. Fifth, data of rainfall amount and runoff from different districts would be coordinated and compiled by the Coordinating and Reporting Team under the DPAC. This team helped conclude the flooding situation in each basin before submitting information to the DWC. Sixth, Data compiled and analyzed by the Data Analysis Team under the DPAC would be verified and transferred to be a database in GIS and MIS. The database assisted in disseminating a flood situation, issuing a notice of flood warning, rescuing, and updating a flood situation. The situation update was helpful for executives to deliberate the next plan and measure. During the period of peak rainfall, staff of the DPAC worked 24 hours. They were exposed to the public's water information by means of information exchange, phone answering. This facilitated the staff to easily recheck data and analysis results, thus modifying the subsequent water analysis properly.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Four main obstacles were encountered during implementation as the followings: First, there were not enough rain gauges to cover the whole areas of basin. The RIO8 then produced temporary rain gauges and gave to the upstream LAOs and districts. In addition, the workshops regarding how to use the rain gauges and how to report data were arranged for relevant staff and volunteers by the RIO8. Later, the DDPM allocated budget to buy the rain gauges for the needed LAOs and districts. Second, personnel of associated agencies had been reshuffled or moved every year. As a result, the RIO8 prepared a work manual and distributed to related LAOs and districts for self-study. The RIO8, moreover, posted on their website and called for a meeting with associated agencies to explain the work procedures. Third, some upstream LAOs and districts delayed to report rainfall amount, thus impeding data analysis by the DPAC. The governor not only set a weekly meeting to follow-up work performance of those agencies, but also indicated the contact numbers of all responsible persons in a document. This document was distributed to every agency associated. Fourth, the DPAC under the RIO8 was an ad hoc center operating from September to November every year. The center asked for cooperation from specialists who held main duties at different offices under the RIO8. The ad hoc center was unfortunately viewed as secondary duties by the specialists. The director of the RIO8 then officially assigned related specialists as a working team of the DPAC. The assignment ensured clear roles and responsibilities of the working team.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Three key benefits resulting from the initiative were: First, absolute flood protection: the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin had been recognized as the redundancy areas of flooding. The initiative launched in 2011 was able to completely protect flooding at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin where it housed the Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality and Nakhon Ratchasima provincial hospital. The size of Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality and provincial hospital were 33,000 households and 1,134 beds, respectively. The DDPM concluded that flooding in Nakhon Ratchasima Province affected 335,946 households in 2010 and 43,860 households in 2011, whereas the total cost of damage was US$73 million in 2010 and US$1.4 million in 2011. It should be noted that the damage in 2011absolutely came from outside of the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin because there was no flooding at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin. Second, streamlining work process and service redundancy: formerly, a notice of flood warning from a responsible public agency would announce to local residents in a vulnerable area on the same day of flood disaster occurred. This was often too late for people to respond to the flooding, and even worse, the flooding sometimes occurred before issuing a warning. The initiative made the responsible agency be able to issue a notice of flood warning to local residents at least 3 days in advance. This facilitated the locality to properly deal with the upcoming flood. Local people, moreover, could directly check water situation with a responsible staff in their areas or from the neighboring areas. Extended channels to access water information included the RIO8's website, local radio stations and cable TV. A rescue effort was more effective due to the new established DWC. Third, customer satisfaction increase: the initiative assisted in complete flood protection from Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality, 33,000 households, and Nakhon Ratchasima provincial hospital, 1,134 beds. Local mass media generally referred to the people's satisfaction with flood preparedness and relief by relevant public agencies. The concrete evidence was that an enormous billboard at the heart of the municipality area. The billboard prepared by the Mayor of Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality showed an appreciation to the governor, the director of the RIO8, and every staff to help protect flooding from Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality in 2011.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
There have been flooding not only at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin, but also at other basins in Nakhon Ratchasima Province including the Lam-Phra-Plueng Basin, Lam-Chieng-Krai Basin, and Moon Basin. The Lam-Ta-Khong Basin was chosen to be a pilot basin since it houses the Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality and Nakhon Ratchasima provincial hospital. If flooding occurs at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin, the economy of the province will be greatly affected. The initiative, integrated flood disaster preparedness and relief, at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin demonstrates the work integration among relevant agencies. The systematic networking has been established for the whole basin, starting from collecting and reporting water information from the upstream LAOs and districts to the downstream LAOs and districts, as well as notifying a flood warning based on indicated warning criteria to an adjacent area. This has been embedded in the work routine of related agencies. The system established assists in getting real-time water information to cope with a flood situation without installing an expensive flood warning system. A work manual is prepared and distributed to relating agencies in order to confirm work flow understanding of a new staff. A sheet of names and contact numbers of all responsible persons in the areas is given to relevant LAOs and districts to directly inquire further information. Before start working each year, there will be a meeting among related personnel to build a mutual understanding of work procedures. According to the success of flood prevention and mitigation, the initiative has been extended to other basins in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. Two-hundred rain gauges were distributed to cover every district in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. Reporting of daily rainfall amount and runoff is necessary in order to ensure real-time water information in the basins. This helps to specify the warning criteria of each basin. Additionally, the initiative can be applied to any provinces in Thailand. The key players involve the regional irrigation office to manage water information, the governor to command a notice of flood warning, and related agencies to operate in accordance with duties and identified plan. The initiative aims to provide quick, correct, and update water information to the public. This would help the public to cope with water situation appropriately.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The most important thing of integrated flood disaster preparedness and relief is to apply area-based approach. This includes topography consideration; real-time rainfall amount and runoff of the upstream area collection; correct and accurate data analysis; single command of flood warning; and, diverse channels of information dissemination to the public The initiative, moreover, is capable of collectively preventing and mitigating flood in the areas by promoting networking and work integration as the followings: (1) work integration with the public: to compile real-time rainfall amount and runoff, to monitor water situation, and to help disseminate a notice of flood warning; (2) work integration with government agencies: to collaborate in order to reach the same goal, to clarify roles and responsibilities to avoid work redundancy; (3) formation of an operation center: to specify a responsible agency, e.g. the DPAC under the RIO8 to manage water information and to analyze data, and the DWC to deliberate a notice of flood warning and to evaluate water situation; (4) development of public relations: to ease public access to water information, flood warning, and recommendations via website, local radio stations, television channels, and cable TV, the DPAC, the DWC, and monitoring network; and, (5) establishment of monitoring and evaluation system: to facilitate executive’s decision-making based on correct and complete information of daily reporting. The above mentions only non-structural measures. However, structural measures should be taken into consideration to enhance the entire flood prevention and mitigation. The structural measures include: (1) to conduct a feasibility study of reservoir, weir, or drainage gate construction in order to use as a tool to manage water; (2) to prioritize a construction plan together with needed budgets; and, (3) to request a budget plan to the government accordingly. At present, a drainage gate is under construction at the Lam-Ta-Khong Basin so as to initially divert water from the Lam-Ta-Khong River to tributary. This would significantly help reduce quantity of water flowing to the Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality and Nakhon Ratchasima provincial hospital. Thus, the non-structural measures applied tend to reinforce flood prevention and mitigation in the area.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Royal Irrigation Department
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Dr. Wachiraporn Kumnerdpet
Title:   Section Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   + (66) 2 669 3775 / + (66) 2 669 1460
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Office of Public Participatory Promotion, 811 Sam-sen Road
Postal Code:   10300
City:   Dusit
State/Province:   Bangkok

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