Drought preparations get under way early

Drought preparations get under way early

Water management units, artificial rainmaking ramped up

Water management units are up and running in seven major provinces in an operation to preserve the amount of water available for consumption and irrigation despite plentiful reserves in most reservoirs nationwide, government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.

Lt Gen Sansern said that although most reservoirs have adequate supplies, the government has cautioned farmers and residents not be complacent and to use water sparingly.

The water management units have opened in Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Sawan, Kanchanaburi, Chanthaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan. These are the core provinces that serve as centres of water distribution for regions with vast farmland where demands both for irrigation and consumption are high.

These measures came in tandem with the early launch of this year's artificial rainmaking operation in Nakhon Sawan on March 1. Both the rainmaking and the units are set to run until the end of October.

Lt Gen Sansern said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been informed that most reservoirs nationwide contain sufficient water supplies.

However, droughts remain a potential risk, but one that can be minimised with efficient water management, the spokesman said.

Off-season, water-thirsty crops should not be farmed in excessive amounts to prevent an oversupply which might drive down the prices. Drought-resistant crops would be a more viable option in certain localities, he said.

Lt Gen Sansern added that Gen Prayut has instructed the Commerce Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry to provide updated information to farmers over such things as crop prices and also promptly provide assistance when needed.

For example, the authorities should tell farmers what the price of rice with varying degrees of moisture should be to keep them from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous bulk buyers.

Agriculture Minister Grisada Boonrach, meanwhile, said droughts could strike many areas in light of the unusual weather patterns this year.

Water levels in some dams have dropped below average and a number of local administrative authorities have requested that artificial rain be dropped over farmland in their jurisdictions.

The Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation (DRRAA) has laid out four strategies for the artificial rainmaking campaigns, which include the alleviation of localised shortages of water and improved water management efficiency, DRRAA chief Surasri Kidtimonton said.

In Khon Kaen, provincial governor Somsak Jantrakul led an inspection of the Huay Yai reservoir in Bang Fang district. It is one of 14 medium-sized water retention facilities in the province supervised by the Royal Irrigation Department.

Huay Yai is one of three reservoirs in Khon Kaen that are less than half full, he said. The other two reservoirs where water has dropped below 50% are Huay Siew in Nam Phong district and Nong Lalerng Wai in Phon district.

As of yesterday, water levels in the three reservoirs stood at an average of 47% of total storage capacity.

The governor has met local leaders and asked them to design a blueprint for the communities' water use, both for consumption and farming, so they will be better prepared to cope with any droughts in the summer, which peaks next month.

He said water levels in the 14 reservoirs are measured daily. In total, about 83 million cubic metres of water is held in reservoirs across the province. The water management unit will be discussing what needs to be done to ensure supplies for the northeastern province last throughout the summer.

Mr Somsak said the good news is that the rainy season could come early this year. It has been forecast that the first rainfalls could hit the province at the end of next month.

The governor said the priority is to allocate enough water for consumption. Plans include for temples to dig up ponds to retain water for public use.

He added that discussions have been held with local leaders over the expansion of tap water systems in the communities, while irrigation zones will also be enlarged to cover more farmland.

In Sakon Nakhon, many water stores and several large reservoirs filled up last week after heavy rainfall.

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