Chalermchai vows to fight drought ills
Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on has pledged his ministry will tailor an assistance package for drought-affected farmers during a looming water shortage in many parts of the country this year.
On his first working day on Thursday, Mr Chalermchai ordered officials to conduct a damage assessment to determine how many farmers would be eligible for any drought assistance.
He emphasised that his officials must get first-hand information from the farmers by asking them what kind of assistance they need.
Mr Chalermchai and his three deputies -- Mananya Thaiseth, Thammanat Prompao and Prapat Pothasuthon -- received an official welcome from senior agriculture and cooperatives ministry led by permanent secretary Anan Suwannarat on Thursday.
The minister said he was concerned about the looming drought after being briefed on the situation by Mr Anan.
The ministry's Royal Irrigation Department (RID) is speeding up efforts to mitigate the impacts of the drought in many parts of the country after several majors reservoirs saw water levels fall below those recorded last year.
The RID found that rainfall has been 18% below average, going against the department's prediction of it only being 5-10% below average.
Less rain has been falling countrywide, especially in the Northeast, which has had almost no rain at all recently, while water levels in the Mekong River there are low due to China's Jinhong dam.
Meanwhile, the Thai Meteorological Department forecast that one storm would hit the country next month, but major dams in the Central Plains region will not benefit much because the rainfall would likely be in areas downstream of the dams.
Ms Mananya, Capt Thammanat and Mr Prapat will today visit Bhumibol dam in Tak to inspect its water management practices.