B3bn fund to combat water crisis
The cabinet will on Tuesday be asked to approve a budget of 3 billion baht to combat water shortages in vulnerable areas which may worsen in the coming months, the Office of National Water Resources (ONWR) said.
ONWR secretary-general Somkiat Prajamwong said the funding, to be allocated from the central budget, is to implement 2,041 projects as a short-term relief measure given expectations the drought could worsen in May-June.
The projects, which include digging artesian wells, will be implemented by four agencies -- the Armed Forces Development Command, the Royal Thai Army, the Department of Ground Water Resources and local administrative bodies.
In addition, Mr Somkiat said the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority, Regional Waterworks Authority, and local bodies are expected to divert funds worth 2.95 billion baht to alleviate water shortages.
When the 2020 fiscal budget bill is passed, state agencies are advised to disburse funds worth 9.4 billion baht to implement 1,434 water projects in 54 provinces as soon as possible, he said.
These schemes will store up to 135 million cubic metres of additional water and should be completed before the rainy season, he added.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said the northern and northeastern regions are the most likely to be affected by seasonal drought.
He said authorities plan to dig more than 500 artesian wells this year, while insisting measures are in place to ensure adequate water supplies until July.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday urged residents to build small ponds if possible to retain water for consumption during the dry season, saying even though the government has a 20-year water management plan, not every inch of Thailand will have access to water due to geographical limitations.
Gen Prayut said the water management command centre to be approved today by the cabinet will coordinate agencies working on the crisis.
Meanwhile, all-out efforts are being made to combat the intrusion of seawater into the Chao Phraya River which is affecting the quality of tap water for residents in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces. Quality of Bangkok tap water is likely to be affected when salinity of the Chao Phraya River rises during high tide on Jan 8-15.
Mr Somkiat said agencies will divert about 500 million cubic metres from the Mae Klong River to the Chao Phraya to improve water quality. Authorities will also drill three wells in Bangkok's Bang Khen, Min Buri and Lat Krabang areas to serve up to 15,000 households.