Minister: Thailand's drought must be national priority


People taking pictures at the ruins of a Buddhist temple which has resurfaced in a dried-up dam due to drought, in Lopburi. Thailand's Energy Minister on Tuesday (Jan 14) said the severe drought hitting the country should be a national priority as rice fields dry out and Bangkok's tap water turns salty. - Reuters

BANGKOK: Thailand's Energy Minister on Tuesday (Jan 14) said the severe drought hitting the country should be a national priority as rice fields dry out and Bangkok's tap water turns salty.

Energy minister Sontirat Sontijirawong chaired a meeting on how to handle what the meteorological department has said would be one of the worst droughts Thailand has seen in some 40 years, which is expected to last until June.

Sontirat said water from dams in western Thailand should be diverted to Bangkok to help the capital's problem of having salty tap water due to saline intrusion.

Somkiat Prajamwong, secretary-general of the Office of National Water Resources, said the Chao Phraya Dam, which regulates the flow of Bangkok’s main river, had only received half of the water intake it needs to use to flush out the ocean water that had seeped into the groundwater.

Somkiat said people are pumping out the water for consumption and irrigation before it reaches the dam, and added that other dams are also extremely dry due to a lack of rain.

The Royal Irrigation Department said in a statement that emergency drought measures have been declared in 18 provinces, where funds will be used to help those affected.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said last Tuesday that, to deal with water shortages, he wanted everyone to help conserve water by showering and brushing their teeth for a minute less each time they go to the bathroom.

Thailand’s Central region is predicted to be the hardest hit by the looming drought, focussed on the 22 provinces along the Chao Phraya River.

Experts also predicts farmland will be affected because the amount of land for farming has risen a lot in recent years. - dpa/Asian News Network
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