Govt speeding up drought relief work

Govt speeding up drought relief work

The level of the Mekong River is only 3-4 metres by Nakhon Phanom province early this month. (Photo by Pattanapong Sripiachai)
The level of the Mekong River is only 3-4 metres by Nakhon Phanom province early this month. (Photo by Pattanapong Sripiachai)

The Royal Irrigation Department (RID) is speeding up efforts to mitigate the impacts of the looming drought after water levels in several major reservoirs fell below the levels of last year.

Eighteen major reservoirs are holding less than 30% of their storage capacity including Pasak Jolasid (Lop Buri province), Chulabhorn (Chaiyaphum) and Nam Pung (Sakon Nakhon).

RID director-general Thongplew Kongjun said several provinces are experiencing drought due to a prolonged absence of rain, so the department has rolled out relief measures to make sure there are adequate supplies of water for household consumption.

The department has asked its irrigation offices and hydro-power facilities to strictly follow their water management plans and has instructed authorities to deploy standby machines, water pumps and water trucks to deliver water to the drought-stricken areas.

The amount of land designated for farming of annual rice crops in irrigated areas across the country is set at 16.68 million rai, and farming has already started on rice farms covering 10.77 million rai, or 64.55% of the allotted land.

In the Chao Phraya River basin, 7.71 million rai are expected to be used to cultivate annual rice crops, and farming has already started on 6.09 million rai.

"The most important measure that every irrigation office must take is to make sure all parties understand the pressing situation and are making the most efficient use of water to protect reserves," said Mr Thongplew.

Attaporn Panyachom, director of the 10th Irrigation Office, said the storage level in Pasak Jolasid dam is dire because there has been no inflow over the past two months, while the dam has been releasing water at 8 cubic metres per second.

He said the dam's management needs to discharge water to maintain the ecosystem and the water level in the Pasak River.

Without rainfall, however, the reservoir will dry up within 30 days.

"If there is still no rain or inflow into the dam, it will be a critical time for the reservoir. And those living downstream will face water shortages," he said.

The amount of water in the Pasak Jolasid dam stands at 50.52 million cubic metres, or 5.26% of its storage capacity of 960 million cubic metres.

Thanakhom Jongjira, Lop Buri governor, has expressed concerns about tap water production which relies on the water supply from the Chai Nat-Pasak canal.

Even though 700,000 cubic metres of water are being pumped into the canal -- diverted from the Chao Phraya River and released through the Manorom water regulator -- half of the water is siphoned by farmers along the canal, he said.

More water pumps will be installed to divert more water to the Chai Nat-Pasak canal to ensure adequate raw water for tap water production.

The situation is expected to improve around the end of the month as rain is being forecasted.

In the Northeast, the water situation also looks bleak, with the water level in the Mekong River dropping rapidly and affecting adjacent rivers in the country.

The Mekong's water level at Nong Khai's hydrological station stood at just 0.80 metres on Wednesday -- the lowest in 50 years.



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