Drought adding to coronavirus woes
Water sought to ensure policy of social distancing succeeds
Thailand is struggling to cope with a worsening seasonal drought, which is forecast to last until July, as the country continues its fight to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Up to 6,255 villages in 24 provinces have already been declared drought-affected areas, while the dams and reserves are only 49% full. Of that, only 26% of the water can actually be used, a meeting of the Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) was told on Monday.
The video conference was headed by Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon.
Several areas are already facing severe water shortages, the meeting was told.
Gen Prawit stressed the need for the ONWR and other concerned state agencies to speed up integrating their work to ensure that every household has sufficient access to clean water during the long dry spell.
That would back the government's policy of urging people to remain at home to stop the spread of Covid-19, said Gen Prawit.
He also ordered a ramp-up in artesian-well drilling to bolster supply to drought-hit communities, as well assure the continuity of businesses and the government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor.
The Royal Irrigation Department has so far found and supplied 15.3 billion cubic metres of water to drought-affected areas, accounting for 87% of the water required under the department's 2019-2020 drought-management plan, said Thongplew Kongchan, the department's director-general.
In the northern province of Phrae, for instance, those villagers keeping fresh water fish in 10 large floating baskets in a medium-sized reservoir in Rong Kwang district were being forced to sell off their stock as the reservoir is depleting rapidly.
Witthaya Takham, an assistant village head of Moo 14 village in tambon Ban Wiang, said more water needed to be released from the reservoir to supply farmers in the downstream areas.
Pramuan Phongthaworadet, a Democrat Party MP for Prachuap Khiri Khan, meanwhile, said the drought in Bang Saphan district had particularly intensified.
Several tambons in the district have begun encountering shortages of drinking water and water for irrigation, he said. Some 3,200 rai of durian plantations have been hit by the shortages, said Mr Pramuan.
In tambon Ron Thong, for example, Khlong Loi reservoir, with capacity of 210,000 cubic metres, has already dried up due to the long dry spell, he said.
The pushed the tambon Ron Thong administration organisation to send out water tanks to help irrigate the durain plantations, said Mr Pramuan.
The water shortage situation in tambon Ban Krut municipality, a popular seaside tourist attraction in Prachuap Khiri Khan, is faring no better, he said, adding efforts were underway to increase access to water there.