Dept warns of worst drought in decade

Dept warns of worst drought in decade

Reserved water drops to 10% of the total capacity of the Phimai dam in Phimai district of Nakhon Ratchasima province this week. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)
Reserved water drops to 10% of the total capacity of the Phimai dam in Phimai district of Nakhon Ratchasima province this week. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)

The Meteorological Department (MD) says Thailand is going to experience the worst drought in a decade, as average precipitation across large swaths of the country has fallen far short of the monthly average.

Kornrawee Sitthichiwapak, the MD's deputy director-general, said downpours this rainy season were far below average, particularly in the North and Northeastern as well as in the Central Plains -- all of which are important crop growing regions.

"The country's overall rainfall is the lowest in a decade," she said.

Ms Kornrawee said this season's storms -- including Tropical Storm Mun -- were much less powerful than in previous seasons, bringing much less rain to the interior part of the country.

"As such, farmers will have to wait until late August or early September for heavy rain to fall," she said.

The lack of rain has affected water reserves across the country.

Water levels in large reservoirs stood at about 38% in the North, 33% in the Northeast, 22% in the Central Plains, 35% in the East, 67% in the West, and 60% in the South, according to figures released by the ONWR.

The lack of heavy rain has seen four medium-sized reservoirs in Nakhon Ratchasima completely dry out, according to the 8th Royal Irrigation Office.

The empty reservoirs have prompted the Office of National Water Resources (ONWR) to speed up efforts to mitigate the impact of the looming drought.

Samroeng Saengphuwong, the deputy ONWR secretary-general, convened a meeting in Buri Ram -- attended by officials from Nakhon Ratchasima, Surin, Buri Ram, Si Sa Ket and Ubon Ratchathani -- to discuss the situation.

Officials also proposed measures to lessen the drought's impact on local residents.

"Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the ONWR and other related agencies about the importance of helping those already suffering from water shortages, who will be even more affected by the drought," said Mr Samroeng.

According to Mr Samroeng, the northeastern region has only 4.3 billion cubic metres of water reserves left in its dams and reservoirs, which equates to about 33% of its maximum capacity.

"Seven large dams in the region now have less than 30% of their maximum capacity," he said.

The drought is expected to affect 105 districts across 12 provinces -- namely Loei, Nong Bua Lam Phu, Kalasin, Yasothon, Chaiyaphum, Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Roi Et, Buri Ram, Surin, Si Sa Ket and Nakhon Ratchasima.

Some provinces have already resorted to drastic measures to cope with water scarcity.

Buri Ram plans to pump water from an abandoned mine to produce tap water, Mr Samroeng said.



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