Water cuts should apply to everyone
Farmers must delay crops. Farmers have to switch to plants that consume less water. Farmers brace for water cuts. Water for the farming sector will be in short supply.
Those are warnings and orders for farmers I have seen in the media for the past several weeks. But I don't remember reading or hearing "city people" being mentioned when it comes to water cuts.
In 2011, we had too much water to handle, with most parts of the country under water. Of course, farmland was the first to be flooded for months while the big cities especially Bangkok were the last to face the murky water and the first to get dry.
Four years later, the whole country now faces a drought. The farmers are the first people told not to use the water. Soldiers have been sent to some farmlands to ensure farmers follow the state order.
The government didn't even ask businesses which consume huge amounts of water each day like hotels, shopping malls, car wash operators, or golf courses to cut their consumption.
ThaiPBS executive Wanchai Tantiwitayapitak raised this question on his Facebook page. "Who should the government ask to reduce water consumption?".
- EDITORIAL: Farmers lose, city folk win
He noted a massage parlour uses an average amount of 200,000 litres a day, and that could mean about 200 million litres a day if there are 1,000 parlours in the whole country.
He said the government could save about 1.2 billion litres of water if it asked the eight million car owners in the capital, who are likely to wash their car every week, about 40 litres for one car at a time, not to do so for the time being. Another would-be target is 18-hole golf courses, each using about one million litres of water a month.
But it's good to see ThaiPBS is quick to share water-saving tips, including using recycled water for plants, wiping your plates before washing them, and serving smaller portions of water to guests.
The practices are common for many; but there are people who do not realise that simple routines such as washing cars with a running hose wastes more water than using buckets of water.
I question the water management in this country and why farmers are always the first to bear the brunt of flood or drought, not to mention the fact they are the people who produce food for us and who may not have the knowledge to grow other crops.
While farmers in many areas have been "asked" to delay their annual crops, it's still business as usual for city people, who have never been "asked" not to use water on anything.
All I've heard is a broad, meaningless water-saving campaign observed by a few people.
But how? Should we still wash our cars every other week, play golf on the well-manicured green every weekend, carelessly wash our clothes every time we want without waiting until the washing machine is full, or keep water running while we brush our teeth — all only because we can afford to pay the water bill?
I'm sure there are people who still enjoy soaking themselves in a bathtub filled with warm water after a long day. As a Bangkok resident, I feel privileged that my tap is running 24/7 no matter what. Or in the worst case, we will be the last in this country to experience dry taps.
I went to a shopping mall in the city over the weekend and didn't see any establishment urging their clients to save water.
Of course, they probably didn't want to appear as skimpy operators who discourage their customers from using tap water that costs them "almost nothing" compared to the luxury brand names they have just bought.
Back to the City of Angels, instead of stepping up with measures to tell his privileged people to share the plight of the farmers and be careful with water consumption, my Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra and his team have ensured that "the capital will be safe from water shortages" because we have our two main sources of water, referring to one in Pathum Thani and the other in Khlong Maha Sawat.
But didn't we hear that taps in some part of Pathum Thani had already run dry last Sunday and Monday?
And did the governor know that the water supply in Khlong Maha Sawat was primarily siphoned from the Mae Klong River which means we are "borrowing" water from the farmers on the western part of Bangkok who want it for their plantations?
We may have rice stock that will last a few years for the whole country.
But I'm not sure how long the meagre savings of those farmers who have been asked to delay their crops will last.
Sirinya Wattanasukchai is an assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.
Sirinya Wattanasukchai is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.