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Date: 1/9/99

Publication: The Nation

Section: Editorial & Opinion

BANGKOKIAN: Day of reckoning over serious water shortage

THE days of abundant fresh water supply could be gradually over from now, judging from the situation of severe shortage expected in the next few months. People in the Central Plains depend on water supply from four main rivers from the North which eventually forms the Chao Phya. It is the lifeblood for agriculture and household consumption, among other things.

This is punishment by Mother Nature for the excess and greed.

The situation has been particularly harsh this year. There has not been enough rainfall to provide sufficient water flow into the major dam reservoirs in the North. Bangkokian has seen the grim situation at well-known waterfalls in Chiang Mai and other northern provinces where there was not as much water as in previous years.

Mae Klang waterfall in Chiang Mai, once a famous site for picturesque sight-seeing and picnics, is no longer a cascade. There was still some water to encourage picnickers to spend some leisure time there, just enough to keep the business of vendors in the area brisk during the past long weekend.

The waterfall flows down from Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in the country, where reserve forest and national park areas are fairly rich with resources. With increasing encroachment and tree fellings, not to mention brush fires, the environment could not be expected to be greener without massive reforestation.

At Mae Ya waterfall, not far from Mae Klang, the situation is not much different. There was enough water to confirm to visitors that it is still a waterfall. The sight is more spectacular than other waterfalls in the area, according to the game wardens who guard that national park, which is also part of the Doi Inthanon range.

Mae Sa waterfall also has less water, part of which has been diverted to nearby farmlands so that peasants would have enough water supply for their crops. Other small waterfalls are more or less in the same state.

The four main rivers, Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan, serve as a sad reminder of the era -- just five decades ago -- when the upper North was still full of forests and jungles. People could use river water for drinking without fear of toxic waste and hazardous contamination. The water levels are receding, exposing sand dunes and shallow channels. Of course, nobody wants to risk sipping the water. The days would come when it is not even safe for small animals and beasts of burden.

This is a stark result of deforestation and destruction of natural resources which were in the form of encroachment, illegal logging, following decades of timber concessions under short-sighted government policy. This was compounded by careless promotion of industrial estates in various provinces, unregulated use of agricultural chemicals and waste disposal.

The siblings of the timber merchants and forest encroachers are suffering from water shortage, higher temperature and generally lower quality of environment and, of course, degraded living conditions.

Mother Nature is not done with us yet. With El Nino and La Nina in alternating years. The water supply will become more unpredictable. Will people remember the harsh life which is to come? Unlikely, if there is plentiful rainfall brought by monsoons next year, Bangkokian thinks.

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Temple foundations don't look stable

Top monks at the Dhammakaya Temple, particularly the abbot, have been put to severe tests, the results of which could shatter the long-held reverence for the controversial temple. More revelations about questionable aspects of the abbot's monkhood, and his conduct considered unbecoming, have more than just raised the eyebrows of many people, including the temple followers and disciples.

Shocking? Oh No! The public had already heard about hard-to-believe rumours about unthinkable pursuits by well-known monks, but their unspeakable secrets were later exposed, involving eye-popping sex scandals among other unholy activities.

Remember Yantra and Phavana Buddho who were once very revered with a large number of followers and disciples. Their sexual escapades led to legal actions which remain unconcluded even now.

But the case involving the Dhammakaya abbot began on other aspect of materialism, land grabbing, commercial investment and now rumours abound about sex. The probe has unveiled extensive landholding and commercial investment and the abbot is said to be a holder of a US green card after millions of dollars in investment in the US.

Surely this is unbecoming conduct for monks who are supposed to be devoid of earthly lust for money, properties and other earthly sins. It shows that reverence for the abbot has been eroding very quickly after more and more exposures about his earlier unpublicised activities.

The Crime Suppression Division is looking into the whole affair to determine whether there were irregularities such as tax evasion and questionable business investments.

Bangkokian reckons that life will never be the same for the abbot and the senior leadership of the Dhammakaya Temple. The ''D'', as Bangkokian

said a few weeks ago, could head words such as defrocking and deep disgrace.

The temple can stay on, of course, with religious practices in line with the mainstream Buddhist teachings. No more so-called multi-level marketing in fund-raising which can cause family hardships.

Meditation and cleansing of souls should continue, but not within an environment of excessive commercial ventures and materialistic pursuit by the monks who survive this crisis. Rebuilding of faith won't take long, if the followers and disciples are in true pursuit of happy souls and peace of mind.

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Chavalit should put away his whistle

If I just blew a whistle, there could be an instant uprising,'' so claims New Aspiration Party leader Chavalit Yongchaiyudh with much pomposity. He sees that Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai is in serious political troubles due to many incidents such as bombs, bomb hoaxes and corruption-related scandals.

Chavalit has become a new kind of whistleblower. Did he mean to say with pride that he could instigate troubles such as mass uprisings whenever he wants? Does he believe that he can arouse that much following among gullible people?

Northeastern people might be poor, but they are not fools. They might be prepared to believe Chavalit in part, but certainly not all of what he tells them. A fact is that not all Northeastern provinces elected NAP members as MPs and many of them are expected to jump ship as soon as the signal for the next election is sounded.

Surely, he can lead the NAP MPs into battle with the Democrats, but he cannot yet guarantee victory. The old wound on his back is not yet completely healed. The jabbing pain is still there. He could not lick it. The Democrats can make it worse with their sharp tongues and that would be enough to straighten him up.

He should remember the adage: loose lips sink ship. He suffered a political drowning once with the sinking baht value and the national economy. People don't forget that too easily. In the past few days, he has been making careless statements including his foretelling about untoward incidents and troubles. They occurred. But those happenings did not make him look any better. Does he know? Very unlikely. There still could be more boasts and bravados until the censure debate in the House.

The Nation

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