Tap water drying up, crops withering in arid fields

Tap water drying up, crops withering in arid fields

Worst drought in 40 years in North, Northeast

Farmers cut unripe rice in their drought-stricken paddy fields, to feed to cattle, in tambon Chiwan of Phimai district, Nakhon Ratchasima, on Friday. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)
Farmers cut unripe rice in their drought-stricken paddy fields, to feed to cattle, in tambon Chiwan of Phimai district, Nakhon Ratchasima, on Friday. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)

People in the northern and northeastern regions are facing the worst drought in 40 years, with crops withering and tap water on the verge of drying up in some areas.

A Nakhon Ratchasima, a provincial waterworks official on Friday warned of a looming shortage of tap water in areas where levels in local reservoirs are dropping.

“This is the longest the rains have held off in 40 years,” said Prayat Raksachat, who operates a piped water system in Thap Kwai, a village in tambon Chiwan in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Phimai district.

“The tap water supply is currently at only 1% of capacity,” Mr Prayat said.

He was worried how the village of 500 residents would find water for daily use and consumption. 

Throughout much of the Northeast, in areas without irrigation, rice crops have wilted and turned yellow, instead of the healthy green normal at this time of year, and will soon die off unless there is substantial rain. 

Chaiyong Chaiburi, a farmer in tambon Chiwan, said arid weather conditions have forced him to reap all the rice plants on his 50 rai of paddy.

“I used it to feed my buffaloes,” he said. “It’s better to see the rice put to good use instead of just withering away and dying.”

In Chaiyaphum province, residents of Muang district have resorted to an ancient ritual known as hae nang maeo, or the cat procession, in a desperate attempt to appease the gods and have them dump rain on the arid areas.

By tradition the villagers throw water on cats being carried around in cages. It is believed a cat's cry will be heard by the Gods as a request for rain.

“But we know now that treating cats that way is cruelty to animals, so we use toy cats instead,” Songkhram Wonsikhai, a 75-year-old local wiseman, said.

The situation is the northern region is equally worrying.

The water level in the Mae Kuang Udom Thara Reservoir in Chiang Mai province has fallen to only 12% of its capacity  -- worse than the level seen during the drought crisis in 2015, Chensak Limpiti, director of Mae Kuang Udom Thara Reservoir, said.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Prapat Pothasuthon said the ministry will keep the farmers updated about the drought and weather conditions.

"Despite the severe conditions, we need to tell the truth to farmers. They must know whether their plants will survive or not," he said.

Thailand is not the only Asia country suffering from drought during the rainy season, Smith Thammasaroj, former chairman of the National Disaster Warning Centre, said. India, Pakistan and Myanmar face a similar situation, because the humidity from the North Pole has not come south as it normally should have, 

This will mean less or even no rainfall until September, he said.     

The Meteorological Department said that the delay in the rains was partly caused by a warmer Pacific Ocean, which will decrease rainfall in the East and Central Plains, including Bangkok, by 5% until next month.

Drought has hit 17 villages in tambon Ban Khok in Muang district of Phetchabun with water sources running dry. (Photo by Sunthorn Kongwarakom)



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