Industry jittery over summer rain

Industry jittery over summer rain

State prepared for drought to continue

An Asian openbill is seen in drought-stricken rice fields in Ang Thong province. Many areas in the central region have experienced drought this year. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill
An Asian openbill is seen in drought-stricken rice fields in Ang Thong province. Many areas in the central region have experienced drought this year. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

With water reservoirs running low, the industrial sector and policymakers are nervously awaiting summer rains to bring an end to one of Thailand's worst droughts in a decade.

The Office of National Water Resources (ONWR) and the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) forecast in February the drought may cause nationwide water shortages.

But the situation improved over the last two weeks with some early rainfall refilling the caches.

However, the government and private sector are still preparing for the drought to continue through May.

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

Weerachat Kittirattanapaiboon, chief executive of Biodegradable Packaging for Environment Co (BPE), which makes products from sugar-cane fibre, said it is prepared for the drought to last through June as it already adopted water reuse in its production.

Mr Weerachat said 90% of water is reused in its production line.

Starting with the drought season of 2015, the company adopted water preservation measures to protect its business, he said.

The company's production facility is located in Chai Nat province on 50 rai, with four rai allocated for a water reservoir with a capacity of 30,000 cubic metres.

"We tried to save water not only to avoid harm to our production line, but the reservoir also provides water to farms surrounding the factory," Mr Weerachat said.

BPE's factory is located inside a hub of rice production.

Chawalit Tippawanich, chief executive of Global Power Synergy Plc (GPSC), the power generation arm of PTT Plc, said although the recent heat wave brought some rain to the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) last week, where many of its plants are located, the company is still on high alert for the possibility of the drought continuing through June or July.

Early this year, the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) launched a water-saving campaign among industrial operators in the EEC in order to push factories to use less water in preparation for the drought.

Mr Chawalit said GPSC volunteered to use 10% less water until the rainy season at the cooling towers in its power plants.

For the long term, he said the company has proposed to policymakers a plan to develop reverse osmosis (RO) capabilities for the country to convert seawater to freshwater.

Mr Chawalit said PTT Group is ready to kick-start the business if policymakers agree with the proposal.

ALTERNATIVE SOURCES

Thailand's second largest coal-fired power plant operator by capacity, BLCP Co, also developed RO technology despite the high costs.

Currently water desalination is an incredibly energy-intensive process.

Managing director Yuthana Charoenwong said BLCP reduced water demand by 10% to 20,205 cu m per month over the last two months through the RO process.

Somchint Pilouk, IEAT's governor, said the authority is confident it can supply raw water to the industrial estate until June in order to cope with shortages for factories during the drought.

During the last 3-4 months IEAT contributed 500,000 cu m of water from the Prasae River to the EEC's main water supply and is planning to add another 150 million cu m per year to the reserves.

"IEAT continues to cooperate with the business sector to reduce water usage by 10%, but the measure may not be enough if the drought continues through the rainy season," Miss Somchint said.

In 2020, the drought crisis severely affected manufacturers in the EEC, where 6,033 factories operate.

IEAT is seeking measures to invest in RO technology to produce fresh water as part of the effort to tackle future water shortages.

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