The Office of National Water Resources (ONWS) is planning to use concepts from the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process to study the management of water along the Mun River basin, which covers 10 provinces in the northeastern region.
The study is expected to be completed by next month before it is turned into an action plan.
Somkiat Prajamwong, secretary-general of the ONWS, said the Mun River basin is one of the country's most significant farming areas covering 44 million rai over 10 provinces, with 74% of that or 33 million rai agricultural areas. The provinces include Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani. Of the total agriculture area, only 2%, or 2 million rai, is under the royal irrigation system.
Like other places, the river basin has faced drought and flooding in many areas due to a lack of a well-planned water management system to increase water storage capacity during the rainy season.
According to the ONWS, the amount of water in rivers and canals is about 13.410 billion cubic metres per year, 5.35 billion cu/m of which is kept at reservoirs, while 3.25 cu/m is discharged into the Mekong River. The amount of water consumed is 10.15 billion cu/m per year, with the figure expected to increase in the future, it said. Due to a lack of capacity in water storage, at least 24 million rai of land face drought problems every year.
"We want all [water management] investments to be worth every baht," Mr Somkiat said. "That is the reason we need to conduct the river basin's SEA, so that we can see a project's [outcome] in a larger picture."
"We will have a correct decision for which projects should be included in the plan for sustainable water management along the Mun River basin," he said, adding the SEA study is expected to finish by next month, noting a public hearing will be held before implementing projects.
Regarding projects aiming to improve sustainable water management in the Mun River basin, the ONWS has included a plan to construct additional water storage units, large ponds connected to small channels and divert water from the Chi River to reservoirs.
The office also plans to divert water from the Pasak Jolasid dam in Lop Buri to the Lam Ta Kong dam in Nakhon Ratchasima and rehabilitate forest land used for agriculture activity to retain moisture and water.