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Pattaya Daily News

09 March 2010 :: 14:03:35 pm 15196

Upcoming Drought Predicted to be Worst in Several Years

As Thailand enters the hot season, experts are warning that the drought which has already affected significant parts of the country could be the worst for several years. This will have a radical effect on agricultural production, related commerce and will also affect the households of the nation in general.
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March 9, Pattaya, [Pattaya Daily News]: experts have started issuing national drought warnings, indicating that the drought this year caused by global warming, the worst El Nino phenomenon encountered in the past 10 years and the falling level of the Mekong River could have dire effects for the whole country, with water reserves already at a critically low point and cultivation affected in the Central Region of the country.

Assist. Prof. Dr. Anond Snidvong, Director of the Climate Change Knowledge Management Center (CCKM), warned that this year’s hot season is likely to be prolonged until May, with the hottest period being between March to April, the peak on 22 April, and temperatures are likely to climb to 40-42 degrees Celsius. Dr. Anond predicted that the hardest hit regions would be lower northern part of the country and the central plains including Bangkok. Dr Somkiat Prajamwong, Project Management Office Director of the Irrigation Department, however, is most concerned about the upper North of Thailand and the Northeast.

Water shortages are expected to seriously affect citizens, and particularly farmers nationwide, whose survival depends on their harvest and water supply. Water supply management and individual conservation measures for Thailand as a whole is therefore crucial to ensure a sufficient amount of water throughout the upcoming drought.

Dr Somkiat also urged farmers not to plant second rice crops and certainly not a third, due to the limited water supply, advising them to grow alternative less water-intensive crops instead. They could expect to resume rice cultivation after May if sufficient rain had fallen in the interim.

Chalit Damrongsak, the Director-General of the Royal Irrigation Department, was another whistleblower, warning that water reserves in Thailand’s medium and large dams were at critical levels, with over 70% of the reserves already having been used. In addition, 92% of water reserves in the Chao Phraya River basin in the Central Plains have been used, with remaining water reserves in Sirikit and Bhumibol dams only being 3,922 million cubic metres, which will critically affect power generation if water levels fall further.

The Irrigation Department, for their part, will immediately implement drought-amelioration measures, the director said, including using mobile pumps for water distribution, the formation of the Joint Management Committee (JMC) for Irrigation, changes to be made to the operation of  reservoirs, and the production of artificial rain. A public awareness campaign will also be started to keep the populace abreast of the situation and to urge everyone to start to conserve fresh and clean water; the latter to prevent the outbreak of disease due to contaminated water.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is tackling China on the impact of its dams on the water level in the Mekong River. The Mekong was just 35-centimetres deep in some places, the lowest in three decades. The socio-economic implications of this are extremely significant. According to Kanokwan Manorom, a lecturer at Ubon Ratchathani University, “When farmers cannot rely on water from the Mekong, many of them will have to seek new jobs and change their way of life.” This is already beginning to happen as many large boats and ferries have already had to suspend services on the river. “Big boats can only sail along the river with a depth of at least 2 metres but the Mekong is now running dry,” complained Sanyan Piyanont, a 53-year-old boat operator. Wassana Mongkhonklee, an executive of a Chiang Rai transport company, warned that the damage to the export sector has exceeded Bt100 million during the past month, alone.

The Mekong River has a significant  influence on nature and the livelihoods of people living on the Indochina peninsula. The river runs 4,800km from its headwaters on the Tibetan plateau through Yunnan province in China to Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Apparently, as much as 35% of the rain water entering the river comes from Laos, so if Laos is drought-ridden, countries downstream will be affected, particularly from Thailand, point of view, Esarn

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti said the Mekong River Commission will invite representatives of China and Burma to its next meeting on April 3 and 5 to discuss this critical issue.

Taliesin Verity
Photo : Internet   Category : Thailand News

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