Government poised to launch water donation plan
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Government poised to launch water donation plan

PM orders agencies to tackle drought crisis

Heavy rain in most of Thailand on Sunday had the usual mixed blessings. In the lower North province of Tak, the rain caused minor landslides that blocked or impeded rural roads, and flooded some streets in Mae Sot town. (Post Today photos)
Heavy rain in most of Thailand on Sunday had the usual mixed blessings. In the lower North province of Tak, the rain caused minor landslides that blocked or impeded rural roads, and flooded some streets in Mae Sot town. (Post Today photos)

The government plans to ask people to donate drinking water to drought-stricken residents, deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd says.

The cabinet will discuss the donation campaign Tuesday, he said. 

Water distribution points will be set up under an initiative of His Majesty the King in drought-hit areas in various provinces. The campaign will be run by the Interior Ministry. 

The distribution points will be mostly located at Rajaprachanukroh schools in the provinces.  

Ironically, rain was reported over most of the country on Sunday, with floods in the North, Northeast and South.

The Meteorological Department forecast, "More rain over the country and isolated heavy rain are expected".

Water at the Chao Phraya Dam in Chainat province rose 26cm on Sunday. Authorities said they would immediately increase the flow out of the dam, possibly guaranteeing tap water to Pathum Thai once again.

Streets in Nakhon Phanom town on Sunday were under 50cm of water, with authorities forced to bring out pumps to try to get rid of the floods into the Mekong River.

In northern Tak province near the Myanmar border, authorities reported landslides and blocked roads from heavy rains on Saturday night and all day on Sunday.

In Yala in the deep South, heavy rains and torrential winds blew down trees and forced a water park and entertainment businesses to close. Several houses lost their tin roofs, officials said.

The Meteorological Department also forecast heavy winds all along the upper Andaman Sea cast, from Phuket northward, with waves of two to three metres.

"A strong southwest monsoon prevails over the Andaman Sea, Thailand and the Gulf of Thailand," the department reported. It forecast rain for every region on Monday, including in Bangkok.

Maj Gen Sansern said water for consumption has been given top priority in the government's water allocation policy.

The drought is now a national crisis and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered all state agencies to save water, the deputy spokesman said.

"People who can afford to pay water bills and use water as much as they please should think twice," Maj Gen Sansern said. "The situation has reached a crisis point. Now is not the time to think about oneself."

Private businesses which consume large amounts of water, such as golf courses, swimming pools and hotels should use water from their own storage supplies first. 

The government will impose swift measures against state agencies or private businesses which use water excessively, Maj Gen Sansern said, adding people should cut down on car washing.

The government also asked farmers in drought-hit areas to stop pumping water from natural waterways into their farms, particularly at this time. This is to ensure there is enough water in the rivers to stop sea water intrusion which is damaging to tap water production during high tides. 

However, Maj Gen Sansern insisted the government is also keen to ensure water reaches farmland where rice paddies are ready for harvest as well as orchards where replacement trees would take a long time to grow if current crops die from a lack of water.

If the water crisis does not improve soon, the government will find measures to remedy or compensate affected farmers, he said.

At the cabinet meeting tomorrow, water management projects already under way and comprehensive plans for water distribution will be considered.

Some of the strategies already in place may need fine-tuning, Maj Gen Sansern said. 

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Pitipong Phuengboon Na Ayudhaya said local authorities responsible for farm and water management in the 22 provinces in the Chao Phraya basin must plan ahead in tackling drought.

Officials will visit affected farmers every day to observe their problems and provide help. They must make daily reports of their visits and submit them to their superiors. 

The minister said it was vital that officials build an awareness among farmers of water conservation. Mr Pitipong said that as a longer term measure, the Agricultural Extension Department  will set up a centre to help farmers increase crop yields.

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