Drought to extend in upper regions

Drought to extend in upper regions

Govt to conduct rainmaking, merge water-related agencies

The Department of Royal Irrigation (DRI) says there will be enough water for harvesting in the dry season, but the drought will continue in the northern regions.

"The water situation this year is better than last year. So, there will be enough water for rice plantations in the Chao Phraya River basin despite the expansion of rice harvesting in the basin zone," said Thongplew Kongchan, secretary-general of the DRI.

The volume of water in four major dams -- Bhumibol dam in Tak province, Sirikit dam in Uttaradit, Pa Sak Jolasid dam in Lop Buri province and Kwai Noi Bumrung Dan dam in Phitsanulok province -- are at more than 70% of their capacities, which is a necessary level to supply farm areas.

Nevertheless, the department's chief admitted the drought in the upper region will continue.

He blamed falling water levels in Ubolratana dam in Khon Kaen and Mae Mok reservoir in Sukhothai province, which each hold less than 35% of their capacity.

About 410,000 paddy fields in both provinces do not have enough water to supply them through the dry season. Five major reservoirs are also drying up, with water levels at less than 50% of capacity.

They are Mae Kuang Udom Thara reservoir in Chiang Mai province, Thap Salao reservoir in Uthai Thani province, Krasaew reservoir in Suphan Buri province, Huai Laung reservoir in Udon Thani province and Lan Nang Rang reservoir in Buri Ram province.

Farming areas in these provinces will be affected because the irrigation system must be economical, and can only supply water for household consumption and not to farms.

The Office of National Water Resources has estimated that over two million rai in the northern regions have already been damaged by the drought. The situation, however, looks brighter for the eastern region.

Water in eastern reservoirs exceeds 70% of holding capacity -- plenty for supplying fruit orchards and industrial activity in the Eastern Seaboard in Rayong province, Mr Thongplew said. Artificial rainmaking can also be used to solve water shortages brought on by the drought.

Surasee Kittimonton, head of the Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation Department, said staff are planning to conduct more artificial rainmaking to feed an additional 30 million cubic metres across 120 reservoirs by the end of next month.

Currently, the department has conducted artificial rainmaking for 4,299 flights over 223 days to provide enough rain to feed 181 million rai of farmland in 58 provinces.

In another development, Gen Chatchai Sarikulya, deputy prime minister, told the media 38 water-related agencies will be relocated to a new organisation, the Ministry of Water, which is expected to take effect in the near future.

He added the new ministry will deal specifically with water resources and is needed because the country needs to build more reservoirs to supply farmland and deal with seasonal flood and drought.

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