Water projects aim to turn Kanchanaburi’s ‘little Isaan’ from dust bowl to rice bowl
The parched plains of northeastern Kanchanaburi will soon be turned green and fertile if the government’s grand water plan for the western province is successful.
The five districts of Bo Phloi, Huai Krachao, Lao Khwan, Nong Prue, and Phanom Thuan lie in the rain shadow of Kanchanaburi’s western hills and are dubbed “little Isaan” for their drought conditions.
Previous attempts to relieve drought and boost agriculture in the area included transferring water from the Mae Klong River. But these failed to provide enough irrigation to relieve droughts and poverty in the area.
Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, in his role as National Water Resources Committee chairman and director of the National Water Command, acknowledged the problem and ordered a solution to be found for the five districts.
Ponds and lakes dug to tap groundwater since 2020 had improved living conditions in the neighbouring Lao Khwan and Huai Krachao districts, said Central Region water management subcommittee chairman Somkiat Prajamwong. The project had increased the amount of water, revenue, and prices in the districts as locals no longer had to travel work in other areas, he added.
However, the groundwater ponds were not sufficient to feed crops in the rest of “little Isaan”, which remains drought-prone.
Instead, his panel has devised two projects to revive agriculture in the area.
The first is to irrigate northeastern Kanchanaburi by diverting water from the Srinagarind Dam on the Khwae Yai River in Si Sawat district. The second is to pump water from the Khwae Yai River in Bo Phloi district.
The subcommittee is working on environmental impact assessment (EIA) guidelines for both projects.