The government should suspend the signing of contracts with the four winning bidders in the 350-billion-baht water management scheme and hold public hearings on the projects, an administrative court judge says.
Wasana Maneethong, the judge in charge of a case filed by 45 plaintiffs to call for the abolition of the water scheme, yesterday said projects under the nine modules are "harmful" and could affect people's health and the environment.
Under Section 67 of the constitution, projects that could harm the environment or public health should first receive the approval of an independent advisory body, she said.
Judge Wasana added that public hearings and environmental and health impact assessments should also be conducted before any work can go ahead.
Forty-five people, led by Stop Global Warming Association Thailand chairman Srisuwan Janya, filed the complaint with the Central Administrative Court on May 1, asking it to abolish the water management scheme.
They accused Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the Strategic Committee for Water Resources Management; the Water and Flood Management Committee (WFMC); and the National Water Resources and Flood Policy Committee of bypassing legal processes in order to implement megaprojects.
In her statement delivered at the court yesterday, Judge Wasana said the four defendants were negligent as they were proceeding with the bidding contest and contract-signing with the bidders without public participation.
The government opened the bidding for the water scheme on May 3.
The four winning bidders, announced on June 10, are ITD Power China Joint Venture, Korea Water Resources Corp (K-Water), Summit SUT Joint Venture and Loxley Joint Venture.
Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi earlier said the government is drafting contract agreements and is expected to sign contracts with the companies within 180 days.
Judge Wasana said this should not go ahead.
"The defendants must organise public hearings to gauge public opinion, as required by Section 67 of the constitution, before signing contracts with the private firms," she said.
She rejected the plaintiffs' call to abolish the water management scheme, saying the government has the authority to carry it out under a regulation of the Prime Minister's Office.
Mr Srisuwan said Judge Wasana's opinion was in favour of the plaintiffs and he hoped the court will rule in line with the judge.
The court will hand down its verdict tomorrow.
A source from the WFMC yesterday said the agency would wait for tomorrow's judgement, which should give clearer instructions about which of the modules need to undergo public hearings.
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Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin & Patsara Jikkham