The government has earmarked over 2 billion baht to drill about 9,000 artesian wells as the number of drought-stricken provinces jumped to 35.
Water hyacinths clog up Khlong Maha Sawat in Thawi Watthana district. The major canal in the west of Bangkok helped drain water from the Chao Phraya River to the sea via the Tha Chin River during the 2011 floods. PANUMAS SANGUANWONG
Supoj Tovichakchaikul, secretary-general of the Office of the National Water and Flood Management Policy, said the dry season's peak covers 90 days, from Feb 15 to May 15.
The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department (DPMP) reported that 35 provinces have been declared drought disaster areas, with the situation most severe in 15 northern and northeastern provinces, including Kalasin, Yasothon, Chaiyaphum, Khon Kaen, Phrae, Chiang Rai and Roi Et.
A total of 23,445 villages are affected by the drought, the DPMP said.
In response to the drought crisis, the government has come up with a short-term disaster response plan to ensure households and farms have sufficient water supply during the 90-day dry period, Mr Supoj said.
State agencies will drill artesian wells in drought-hit provinces, mostly in the Northeast, he said. His office would seek cabinet approval for a 2-billion-baht budget for the scheme on Tuesday.
He said the Department of Groundwater Resources had recently surveyed groundwater sources in the affected areas and found about 2,000 spots suitable for drilling artesian wells.
However, the DPMP says at least 9,000 wells are needed to provide water for needy households during this dry season, he said.
In addition to drilling wells, state agencies will send water trucks and water pumps to affected areas, he said.
Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan said the ministry will distribute 20,000 litres of water containers to communities facing water shortages.
"The focus now is to make sure there will be sufficient water for household consumption throughout this 90-day water crisis period," the minister said.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk yesterday said the government would allocate a 2-million-baht budget to each province for the dredging of waterways to increase water retention capacity and improve water flow. The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry has issued a ban on the second round of off-season rice growing, saying paddy farmers are at risk of having their crops damaged due to the water shortage.
Vast areas of rice paddy in non-irrigated areas have been damaged due to drought, with farmers struggling to find water sources.
In Nakhon Ratchasima, farmers installed water pumps on public waterways to pump water into their farmland.
Officials said the farmers were allowed to pump the water to their land, but they were prohibited from blocking or diverting the waterways.
In Phichit, rice farmer Sanan Kheokaew said he decided to buy the rights to use the water in his neighbour's pond at a cost of 4,000 baht, as his 14-rai paddy field was in dire need of water.
"Buying water will raise the expenses of growing rice, but it's better than to let the rice wither and die," he said.
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