MWA offers prizes to save water
Cabinet approves job help for farmers
published : 22 Jul 2015 at 03:29
newspaper section: News
The Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA) is offering rewards for households and business operators who use the least amount of water in Bangkok.
The initiative is a government plan to conserve water in urban areas.
The government is being forced to act with water shortages predicted to persist until the middle of next month, and despite rainfall in some areas, water levels in major dams are still low.
MWA governor Thanasak Wattanathana said yesterday the authority has launched a water-saving campaign to encourage conservation among residents and business operators in the capital.
The authority says any household that cuts its water use by 10%, or more than five cubic metres of water, compared with its water bill in July, will win a prize from the MWA.
The top prizes will be given to the five households and five businesses that reduce their water consumption the most.
The winners will be announced next month and in September. Mr Thanasak did not disclose what the prizes would be.
Bangkok uses on average 200 litres of water per person per day, including the industrial and business sectors.
Last year, the MWA distributed 1,377 million cu/m of water to 2.17 million users in the capital, Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan provinces.
Meanwhile, speaking after yesterday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government has come up with two measures — one for urgent drought relief and the other for long-term water management.
The cabinet yesterday approved a 30 billion baht budget for a long-term water management plan to ensure there is a sufficient water supply over the next 11 years.
Ten million baht will also be given to each province as part of an urgent drought relief measure to create jobs for farmers affected by the protracted dry spell.
The first long-term measure will be to seek additional water sources for use from now until 2026 by digging new canals, building water retention ponds, and expanding the size of existing reservoirs.
More than 30 billion baht will be disbursed from the 2016 budget to implement the measure, he said.
The measure will help boost the country's farming areas, and more irrigation systems will take root, the prime minister said.
Currently up to 6,000 reservoirs and water retention ponds are being excavated.
He also said that a study is being conducted on the possibility of using international waterways.
Gen Prayut said he has instructed the Interior Ministry to create jobs to help farmers whose crops have been ruined by the drought.
The disaster relief budget of the Disaster Prevent and Mitigation Department under the Interior Ministry will give each province 10 million baht to help affected farmers.
The government is ready to provide additional financial support if the department's budget is not enough, Gen Prayut said.
"We will implement the measure as quickly as possible so affected farmers have money to spend,'' he said.
Gen Prayut said that because the farming sector has been asked to stop diverting water, Bangkok residents should also help preserve water.
Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Pitipong Phuengboon Na Ayudhaya said yesterday several farmers have reduced how much water they divert to their farmland, which has now led to water levels increasing in some dams.
He said the ministry will today release water for rice fields covering 1.36 million rai in the Chao Phraya River basin.
It may, however, take some time before the water reaches the rice fields.
In Chai Nat, rain in upstream provinces has eased supply problems at the Chao Phraya dam.
Water at the dam stood at 14.09 metres above sea level during the last check at 9am yesterday, slightly above the 14-metre crisis level for the first time in five weeks.
The water level had dropped continually since June and hit its lowest point of 13.11 metres last Friday.
But rain in Nakhon Sawan, Kamphaeng Phet and Uthai Thani provinces sent water to the Chao Phraya River and helped the dam.
The rising water is not good news for farmers downstream after dam director Ekkasit Sakdeethanaporn said the priority now is to preserve water for consumption and combat the incursion of saltwater at the mouth of the Chao Phraya.