By The Nation
AMID FALLING water levels in the Chao Phraya River, water distribution will be halted for the agricultural sector from today, the Royal Irrigation Department said, adding all water will be allocated for domestic use and to sustain the ecology.
The Water Watch and Monitoring System for Warning Centre revealed the measure to save the scarce water supply in the Chao Phraya River basin. Of the total 18 million cubic metres of water discharged every day, 5 million cubic metres will be used for tap-water production, while the remaining 13 million cubic metres will be to sustain the ecology and resist salt water invasion.
As criticism grew that farmers have to suffer crop damage in order to let tap water run in the city, Agriculture Minister Pitipong Peungboon na Ayuthaya said, “Everyone is using tap water, not only Bangkokians.” Pitipong denied that farmers’ interests were being sacrificed to let the people in Bangkok use tap water, saying everyone uses tap water and the water comes from the same source, the Chao Phraya River.
“It’s not only the people in Bangkok who have been affected by the current tap-water shortage but people in other provinces as well. I don’t want everyone to think that way, as we all consume water from the Chao Phraya River except those who use water from wells,” he said.
He further revealed that there was a suggestion for an emergency decree on the drought situation to raise public attention to the issue but this will be discussed further as per the Cabinet procedure.
“The Cabinet is concerned that the drought will prolong until next April and the focus should be on planning water usage ahead until next April because we have been using too much water for many years,” he said.
Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda yesterday ordered provincial governors to be in charge of water management in their provinces by working in cooperation with police, soldiers, the Royal Irrigation Department and other related agencies to avoid damage to horticulture.
“I know that this is hard work, but the governors have to inform the farmers about the importance of the current water distribution plan and ask them not to pump water into their paddy fields. The governors also have to prepare for crop damage assessment as well,” Anupong said.
He also encouraged the governors to limit the impact on orchards as a result of the water cut to the agricultural sector.
As a result of the ban on the use of water in the agricultural sector, it was reported that the farmers in Ayutthaya’s Lad Bualuang district have to buy water from water trucks to save their rice crop, which will be ready for harvest soon. A local reporter revealed that the price of water per truck was Bt800.
In Lop Buri’s Ban Mi district, soldiers and local authorities asked farmers to stop pumping water from Chainat-Pasak Canal into their fields.
The farmers have heeded the request but they also asked for their share of water after there is enough water for domestic use because they had invested Bt5,000 per rai of land for cultivation
while the government compensation was only Bt2,000-Bt3,000 per rai.
The Provincial Waterworks Authority reported that as of yesterday, tap water service in Saraburi’s Phra Phutthabat district has been suspended because there was no raw water reaching the pumping station, while there were also nine other areas where the tap-water service was disrupted.