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Eight provinces on brink of water crisis, as there is still no sign of rain

Jul 23. 2019
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By The Nation

The lack of rain has brought eight provinces to the brink of a water crisis.

Five districts in Nakhon Ratchasima – namely Phimai, Chum Phuang, Non Daeng, Non Sung and Prathai – have been suffering drought for nearly three months now, with up to 20,000 rai (3,200 hectares) of paddy fields left parched for water. The locals are also struggling to find water to survive as their taps have dried up.

All reservoirs in the province are almost empty, especially Phimai dam, and if there isn’t any rain in the next week, all crops will die. This is believed to be the worst drought in 50 years.

Khon Kaen province, meanwhile, is urgently pumping water into 1,000 rai of drought-hit fields.

Khon Kaen governor Somsak Chungtragoon said he is working with related agencies to follow up on the installation of pumps to push water from a local water basin to monkey cheeks nearby, so water can be pumped to irrigate crops in neighbouring areas.

Local villager Chantima Pamai said initially she thought her crops would wither away, but hopes for saving them has been renewed now that the governor is trying to provide irrigation.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, meanwhile, has allocated Bt1 billion to finance the expansion of local water bodies in drought-hit provinces.

Separately, farmers from Phichit are calling on the Kamphaeng Phet irrigation office to pump water from Ping River to 30,000 rai of their paddy fields which are slowly dying because the local rubber weir has been damaged and cannot store enough water.

Drought in the province of Phichit has become severe, especially in areas upstream of the Yom River, because the Sam Ngam rubber weir was damaged five years ago, reducing its ability to store enough water.

Village headman Chatchai Sukked, who represents 200 farmers from three districts of Phichit, visited the Kamphaeng Phet irrigation office asking for floodgates to be opened so water can flow into their dry paddy fields.

However, Prasert Lumpakorn, chief of the engineering team in Wangbua water-management project, said it will take seven to 10 days to deliver water to farmers because a local canal is still being constructed and pumps need to be installed.

Meanwhile, irrigation authorities in Chiang Mai province said 3.9 million cubic metres of water will be reserved to ensure taps do not dry up.

The lack of rain has left as many as 17 major dams in the country almost empty.

In Lop Buri, the Pa Sak Jolasid Dam reservoir has dropped dangerously low, to only 4 per cent of capacity – even lower than it was four years ago when the central province withered in the grip of severe drought.

In Nan in the North, millions of worms have infested 47,000 acres of cornfields spanning all 15 districts, more than half the province’s land devoted to corn.

In Nong Khai in the Northeast, the Mekong River is running too low to catch any fish. The level is more than 10 metres below the top of the bank on the Thai side.

Residents are instead earning a living in construction or small business.

The news was only good in Ubon Ratchathani, also in the Northeast, where a significant amount of rain fell on Tuesday, credited to cloud-seeding operations.

A Muang Ubon farmer said his rice had narrowly escaped devastation in what he called the most severe drought he’d ever seen.

The Kwang Noi Dam in Phitsanulok currently holds 134 million millimetres of water – 14 per cent of its capacity. One of four major dams designated for dispensing water for public consumption, it is able to release just 10 per cent of what it normally shares.

Warawut Niumnoi, director of water distribution and maintenance at the dam, said only 91 million millimetres of water was available to distribute.

There is currently no inflow at all, he said, and what is being released into the Chao Phraya plain can only be let go at 25 cubic metres per second.

Phitsanulok Governor Piphat Eakphapun has directed agencies to closely monitor the drought situation, prepare remedial plans for farmers, especially those growing rice and corn, determine the need for artificial rainmaking, and coordinate with the Department of Groundwater Resources on further plans.

The Army has established a centre to monitor the situation in real-time so that water can be provided to the drought victims efficiently.

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