Farms urged to study water app

Farms urged to study water app

Farmer Chaiwat Payab works to get water from a nearly dry klong onto his sunflower field in Ang Thong province. (Bangkok Post file photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Farmer Chaiwat Payab works to get water from a nearly dry klong onto his sunflower field in Ang Thong province. (Bangkok Post file photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Farmers who live outside irrigation zones should use smartphone apps and self-learning methods online to play a bigger role in water management as climate change threatens to hurt their livelihoods, a senior Thai official warned Asean members Thursday.

Most Thai farmers operate in rain-fed zones that are potential drought hot spots. As such they should learn how to manage their water resources for personal consumption and farming in line with an initiative spearheaded by late King Bhumibol, Royol Chitradon said.

Mr Royol serves as director of the Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute (HAII) which operates under the Ministry of Science and Technology. He made the remarks at an international conference in Bangkok dubbed "Water Forum II: Sustainable Water for Asean".

He said local communities should study their water needs and devise plans that allow for reserves to tide them through the dry season.

Thailand receives about 754 billion cubic metres of rainfall a year on average but its dams and reservoirs fall short as they can only store less than 10% of this or 70.76bcm, he said.

Unpredictable weather patterns caused by global warming have triggered flash floods and droughts in all 10 Asean nations, he said, adding that new water-management plans are required as water consumption in the region is tipped to rise 35% over the next decade. "Having the ability to adapt is the key to minimising impact," Mr Royol said.

"Success depends on the community. Local people have an opportunity to learn about this and design solutions for sustainable development," he said. Thailand has over 20 million farmers but the vast majority rely heavily on rainfall as only 42,336 square kilometers of farmland is in the irrigation zone.

HAII has introduced self-water management projects to 60 communities nationwide and the results have been promising, Mr Royol said.

Many farmers now see stronger crops in the dry season and some report triple their former earnings under the new schemes, he said.

The projects include creating large ponds to serve as communal reservoirs, building up flood control channels and increasing the size of other water-retaining basins, he added.

All farming communities will be able to access clean water within two years, and water-treatment facilities will be beefed up for the Chao Phraya, Ta Chin, Bang Pakong and other key rivers, said Wijarn Simachaya, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

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