By Visarut Sankham
OTHER than encouraging farmers to grow crops that consume less water ahead of the upcoming drought crisis, Thai academics have suggested a three-phase measure, which includes linking water sources to ensure a constant supply.
This linked system will also serve as floodwater-retention spots during flooding.
The “Robust Water Infrastruc-ture System”, comprising check dams and ponds that will be linked via a canal, should be implemented in all tambons, so each tambon can have its own “large water jar in the backyard”, said Asst Prof Sucharit Koontanakulvong.
Sucharit, from Chulalongkorn University’s Department of Water Resources Engineering, said this system would help improve water supply and help ease climate change.
“If it were implemented, we could save 30 per cent of water used in agriculture. Also, this constant water supply will lead to farmers no longer having to store extra water in rice fields, a lot of which often goes to waste anyway,” he said.
This system is one of the many long-term measures Sucharit proposed at the Monday’s public forum on “Drought Crisis: Solutions on Water Management and the Future of Thai Agriculturists”, hosted by the Thailand Research Fund (TRF). The brainstorming session was held so policymakers have some solutions to tackle the upcoming drought, which is said to be worse than the one this year, which saw water levels in dams drop to the lowest in 50 years.
The short-term measures proposed at the session included advance water-shortage warning systems, development of water-storage systems and stricter rules to control water usage. Mid-term measures include forest conservation, weir improvement, local water-supply management plan, seeking more water sources and getting the private sector to better manage its water usage. Long-term measures include the said system and improvement of network of reservoir operations(Ang-Poung).
“Last year, we released 4.113 billion cubic metres of water in the Chao Phraya River watershed, when we should have released 2.9 billion cubic metres according to the Chao Phraya River Basin water-management plan. This extra water then affected agriculture, especially small-scale farmers. Damage from the last year’s water shortage cost around 0.52 per cent of the gross domestic product,” Sucharit added.
Prof Attachai Jintrawet from Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Agriculture, also a speaker at the event, urged farmers to refrain from growing water-dependent crops during this drought, and suggested that they grow plants that consume less water like soybean and mung bean instead.
He also recommended the use of a new agricultural management concept called “Precision agriculture”, which is based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops. If farmers follow this new method, they can reduce the risk of losing their crops and even help boost crop production, he said.