Thailand's weather woes — come rain or shine

Thailand's weather woes — come rain or shine

Fast and furious — the first half of the year is over, which will hopefully take away the crazy hot weather and bring more rain.

Many Bangkokians dread the pouring rain, however, because it leads to disastrous traffic and troublesome flooding of sois and streets, which happened one Monday this month when kids couldn't get to school and people couldn't get to work. Life section's Monday morning meeting was even called off thanks to the downpour.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the drought situation is pretty serious outside Bangkok, with rivers running dry and major dams facing low water levels.

The worst drought in more than a decade has hit agriculture, especially rice paddies in the central region, which have damaged crops and affected rice exports.

Last week, I watched a TV news programme reporting on the long-standing drought and worrying dam situations, as well as the rain-praying ceremony.

"I pity the poor cat," said the show's host to round off the footage of a feline being carried around in a metal cage by Suphanburi locals during the hae nang maew ceremony at Don Chedi Monument.

The parade of people, along with a confined cat, circled the statue of King Naresuan the Great nine times. The tabby looked pretty relaxed lying in the cage, but I didn't get the chance to see how it was after completing the ninth round — dizzy and distressed perhaps.

Its worst ordeal, I imagine, was probably being sprinkled by water. This is all done in aid of encouraging the cat to meow to summon rain clouds. Presumably, the louder the cat cries, the more rain will come.

Whether the tabby had mystical powers or not, a sprinkle of rain did fall from the sky to the delight of those performing the ceremony, which is believed to also help wash away evil while bringing peace and prosperity to the town as well as the season's normal rainfall.

Locals in other provinces, like Phitsanulok also recently conducted their drought-breaking ceremony.

Do cats enjoy the Songkran-like treatment? According to an Animal Planet article, cats' aversion to water is a result of domestication, as owners shield them from getting wet.

Farmers will probably not be very happy about July's weather forecast as the Thai Metrological departments have estimated an ongoing drought and it looks like the cats still have to be paraded around.

A report on June 26 says that around the third week of July, the prevailing southwest monsoon over the Andaman Sea and Thailand will come intermittently, while the monsoon trough over upper Thailand will move upward to go across southern China causing a reduction of rain in the country.

The water shortage, therefore, is likely to continue in many agricultural areas, especially for those repeated drought areas outside the irrigation zones. The arid conditions and lack of water in the north and northeastern parts of Thailand has also withered other crops, such as those from the longan and lychee trees.

Despite the significance of the agricultural sector, which is the livelihood of over half of the working age population, the irrigation system has not been able to cope with the alternating floods and droughts that happen each year.

The previous government's 350 baht billion water-management project, including irrigation planning, was reactively initiated due to the 2011 flood crisis that submerged the upper half of the country right down to many parts of Bangkok.

That scheme has been replaced by a new 10-year water management plan by the current military government, which now has to implement urgent water management projects to fix the current problem with a limited budget.

As long as the country doesn't have a long-term and big scale project in place that includes a serious reform to the irrigation system, the agricultural sector will have to live with the uncertainty of Mother Nature, coupled with the effects of global warming.

And with the droughts, we will have to continue with the hae nang maew rituals.

Although toms need not worry about being selected to be placed in the cage, female kitties, I am sure, will also continue to pray for it to rain cats and dogs, so that they don't have to go through the ordeal.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram

Feature writer

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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