Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Clouds reluctant to open for parched rice farms

Jul 21. 2019
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By The Nation

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Urgent measures are being taken in the Thai North and Northeast to irrigate rice paddies during an unusually dry rainy season.

In the Northeast, Roi Et Vice Governor Tawee Jongprasert is working with rice farmers of the Kasetwisai Agricultural Cooperative’s branch in Baan Nok Hor to arrange cloud seeding aimed at bringing on rain to relieve severe drought in Thung Kula Rong Hai, an area known globally for its jasmine rice.

Co-op manager Boonkerd Phanon said rainfall had been scant for almost three months, affecting more than 9,000 co-op members and 179,000 rai of rice fields.

“If it continues through the end of this month, the drought will affect a wider area and will hurt rice harvests next year,” she said. “We hope rainmaking will help the planted rice survive and alleviate the problem.”

Wassana Wongrat, director of the Northeastern Royal Rainmaking Operation Centre, said four such centres there were targeting central Isaan, especially Thung Kula, where the drought is the most severe. 

Rainfall remains low, however, despite cloud seeding being done, as weather conditions have to be favourable.

In Si Saket’s Utompornpisai district, farmers at Baan Yang are digging into their own pockets to pay for gasoline to drive a huge water pump borrowed from the Khok Jan subdistrict administrative organisation. The hope there is to revive around 500 rai of fields.

In Si Saket alone, drought covers 22 districts and has killed off rice plants across more than 100,000 rai. 

Attempts are being made there too to create artificial rain, but relatively low humidity is limiting the effort’s success.

Mekong River

The rain shortage is largely blamed in the El Nino effect, but eight provinces along the Mekong River have also gone dry due to trial runs of the Xayaburi Dam across the river in Laos. 

They are Chiang Rai, Loei, Nong Khai, Beung Kan, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen

Farmers in the area witnessed this once before, when tests at Xayaburi combined with reduced discharges from China’s Jinghong Dam, resulting in a dramatic drop in the level of the Mekong.

The level has recently risen about two metres at Nong Khai, but the water crisis persists. The exposed riverbed can be seen in some places, becoming something of a tourist attraction, people easily able to walk across to sandbars in what had been midstream.

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