Country heads for graver crisis

national January 28, 2016 01:00

By Sonthanaporn Injan
The Nation

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DISRUPTED waterworks operations and subsiding roads in Bangkok’s nearby provinces have signalled that the country may have to brace for an even graver drought crisis than last year’s.

In Chachoengsao province, three tap-water stations have ceased production operations since January 15 due to the intrusion of seawater.

“This year, high tides have come so early,” Montri Uthaisri said yesterday in his capacity as the manager of the Provincial Waterworks Authority’s Bang Khla office.

Tap-water stations such as those in Chachoengsao prevent impacts on locals by buying water from other stations for the continued delivery of waterworks services, he said.

The Royal Irrigation Department initially predicted that high tides would arrive in early February, but the seawater intrusion has clearly come much sooner, he added.

“So, it is likely that the shortage of raw water could be more severe than last year,” Montri said.

In Ayutthaya province, drought has already caused road damage in several areas because there was no water to sustain soil layers below the surface.

“One of the roads has subsided by nearly three metres,” said Jeerapong Pintabutr, the director of Ayutthaya’s rural-roads office.

Officials are now surveying the damage and undertaking repairs where possible, he said, adding,

“But in most cases, we are still waiting for a budget [to finance this work] to arrive.”

Tambon Pai Phra Administrative Organisation in the province’s Bang Sai district has reported major damage on a thoroughfare between a community and a main road.

A 50-metre portion of the road has subsided by two metres, leaving a gaping hole about four metres wide.

Ayutthaya fisheries chief Pramuan Meepan said Phraya Banleu Canal in Lat Bua Luang district was running dry, with a huge number of fish already having died.

Relevant authorities have now urged all sectors in the country to use water economically in the face of limited water supply.

There are now just 1.533 billion cubic metres of disposable water in Bhumibol, Sirikit, Kwai Noi and Pasak Jolasid dams – which have a big role to play in the Chao Phraya River Basin.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya, meanwhile, said rain-making operations would be conducted in appropriate areas to increase water supply.

Such operations have already proved successful in increasing water supply in Phichit, Phetchabun, Nakhon Sawan and Lop Buri provinces, he said.

The Royal Irrigation Department said it had already spent more than Bt1 billion in creating jobs for farmers who had to suspend their activities in the wake of drought.