Drought fear eases after heavy rain

Drought fear eases after heavy rain

Dry spell at an end, says Chalermchai

The water crisis in many drought-hit provinces is likely to ease after widespread rain across several regions ended a two-month dry spell and boosted reservoir levels, said Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on.

Addressing concerns about the water shortage on the second day of the government's policy debate in parliament, Mr Chalermchai said two of the country's main reservoirs -- the Sirikit and Bhumibol dams -- are filling up and have received 40 million cubic metres (m³) of water.

He said that most rain-making operations have been successful and should temporarily alleviate drought, which hit several provinces in the North, Northeast and Central regions.

As part of long-term water-management measures, the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) will survey all reservoirs and other water sources and build monkey cheeks (kaem ling), or water-retention areas, for the dry season, he said.

The minister said more water-catchment areas near the Sirikit and Bhumibol dams are deemed necessary to help drought-affected farmers.

Senator Danai Meechuwate agreed that the country needs more water-catchment areas, and suggested dredging canals and rivers to increase their storage capacity.

Meanwhile, RID director-general Thongplew Kongjun said yesterday the RID has begun adjusting water discharge rates at four major reservoirs -- Bhumibol, Sirikit, Pasak Jolasid, and Kwai Noi Bumrung Dan -- to prepare for another dry spell expected in November this year.

The water levels in the four dams which supply water to communities in the Chao Phraya River basin are lower than anticipated due to the drought conditions over the past months, he said.

The drought forced farmers to draw water from rivers and other sources into their farms and prompted the RID to increase discharge rates to relieve shortages for downstream communities.

To prevent a severe drought later this year, the Office of the Natural Water Resources has asked the department to reduce discharge rates at the four reservoirs.

Mr Thongplew said the RID has assessed the water situation and decided to revise its water allocation and management plan. It has decided to cut the water discharge rates at the four dams to 1,766 million m³ from 2,066 million m³.

Currently, the water discharge at Tak's Bhumibol Dam is at 21 million m³ of water a day, down from 23.21 million m³.

The discharge at the Sirikit Dam in Uttaradit is 18.39 million m³ of water, down from 19.09 million. The Pasak Jolasid Dam in Lop Buri province is releasing 440,000m³ of water a day, down from 700,000m³.

According to the RID director-general, rice farms in the Chao Phraya River basin are expected to be nursed back to health during the months of August and September when steady rain is forecast.

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