Sunday, August 25, 2019

Scent of rain, but agencies scrambling to counter drought

Jul 22. 2019
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By The Nation

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With the Royal Rainmaking Department ordered to speed up its efforts and farmers advised to postpone planting, the Meteorological Department is saying showers are on the way for about 40 per cent of the areas gasping through drought.

Somkiart Prajamwong, secretary-general of the Office of National Water Resources, said conditions at reservoirs across the country were discussed at an urgent meeting on Monday.

In attendance were representatives of the Agriculture Ministry, Agricultural Extension Department, Royal Irrigation Department, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and Provincial Water Authority.

While information is being shared and collaboration has been established, Somkiart said, no joint resolution has been prepared because each agency is focusing on its own work. 

An ONWR assessment of water available in areas expected to face drought if rain does not arrive as expected will form the basis for releasing supply from reservoirs, Somkiart said.

It is now “quite certain” that many provinces in the Northeast and Central region will undergo drought, he said.

Water in the Northeast is already restricted to drinking and household use only. Irrigation is prohibited.

Somkiart said the ONWR has yet to gauge the amount recently added to large and medium-sized reserves in the North, Central and Northeast.

The Agriculture Ministry’s Rainmaking Department has all 22 of its aircraft and two Royal Thai Air Force planes seeding clouds around the country.

It has 11 units in 13 provinces – Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Tak, Lop Buri, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani, Surin, Sa Kaew, Surat Thani, Rayong and Nakhon Sawan.

Its aircraft are 11 Caravans, seven Casas, two Super King Airs and two CN-235s, while the Air Force has contributed two BT-67s.

In Phichit, where drought has already taken hold, about 200 farmers in three tambon in Pho Prathap Chang district called on the Royal Irrigation Department on Monday to release water from a dam to save their rice.

The farmers in Dong Sua Luang, Thung Yai and None Sawang gathered at the department’s Kamphaeng Phet office to demand urgent help.

They want a water gate on the Ping River in Kamphaeng Phet opened to feed a 100-kilometre irrigation canal connected to their 30,000 rai (4,800 hectares) of rice fields.

In Phichit’s Sam Ngam district, the Yom River has almost run dry following months without rain, allowing people to easily walk across.

In Chiang Mai, deputy governor Komsan Suwanampha said wells might be dug in the southern part of the province to prevent a water shortage. 

He expressed confidence that existing supplies are enough to meet consumer demand of about one million cubic metres per month.

But water from reservoirs cannot be released for irrigation, so farmers should refrain from planting rice and villagers who raise fish in cages along rivers should cease operations after the next harvest, Komsan said.

He said rice and longan farmers with crops on the way would receive help, but there would be no compensation for those who ignore warnings and plant anew.

The Chiang Mai Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office will set up operation centres in all districts, he added.

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