Relief urged for looming water crisis

Relief urged for looming water crisis

Remnants of what appear to be a temple are exposed after water in the Pasak Jolasid dam in Lop Buri has receded because of record-low rainfall. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Remnants of what appear to be a temple are exposed after water in the Pasak Jolasid dam in Lop Buri has receded because of record-low rainfall. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Prime Minster Prayut Chan-o-cha will be asked to approve seven urgent measures to deal with the looming water scarcity in 20 northern and northeastern provinces.

The solutions, part of the national anti-drought scheme prepared by the Office of the National Water Resources, include supplying water to at-risk areas, making artificial rain, dredging ponds and canals to increase their storage capacity, building and repairing artesian wells, compensating afflicted farmers and teaching people how to save water better.

An ad hoc centre, which will report directly to the prime minister, will also be set up to oversee these initiatives, secretary-general for national water resources Somkiat Prajamwong said yesterday.

He did not elaborate on the budget needed for the plans, or compensation for farmers who are seeing their crops wilt, but did promise an estimated 1.2 billion baht for 144 dredging projects in drought-prone areas.

"This year, we have nearly 12 billion cubic metres less water than in 2018," Mr Somkiat said.

Currently, the country has just over 38 billion cubic metres of water, which accounts for 47% of all reservoirs, he added.

But not all provinces have equal access to water. Mr Somkiat expressed concern over 83 districts in 20 provinces in the North and Northeast which are "at critical risk of water shortages".

Among drought-hit areas is Surin in the Northeast. Without rain for more than two months, residents have complained about rice drying in paddy fields and a lack of tap water in Muang district.

Piped water relies on Saneng pond, but residents said it is now "almost empty", causing one of the most severe water shortages in 41 years.

Dawit Wetsiriyanon, who lives in Tambon Nok Muang in Muang district of Surin, said he has not been able to use tap water for five days.

"We simply can't wait for government help. We have to help ourselves first," he said.

Mr Dawit said that he and his neighbours had been forced to dig for underground water in the hope that they could set up an artesian well to alleviate the situation in the district.

The army has also sent water trucks to give water to residents in areas hardly accessed by state officials.

In another development, the Lao government will delay the test of Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River, following worries it will only worsen the drought problems downstream in Thailand, said Samroeng Saengphuwong, deputy secretary-general for national water resources.

However, Ch Karnchang, a Thai giant construction firm which has co-invested in the dam development, argued against cancelling the test, stating that the dam provides run-of-the-river hydroelectricity and therefore does not need to store water.

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