Defiant farmers rally

national July 18, 2015 01:00

By The Nation

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Irrigation dept urges them to wait three days for decision on pumping water



The Royal Irrigation Department has urged farmers not to pump water into their fields over the next three days, during which the agency will assess the drought situation in different areas, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said yesterday.

The department has only been allowing water to be channelled into areas suffering severe drought and will provide a clear answer in three days as to whether water would be channelled in other areas too, he said. 
More than 300 farmers staged a protest in Ayutthaya province yesterday to demand a share of water for their farms amid the ongoing drought, but authorities summoned soldiers and firmly rejected their demand. 
Meanwhile, the Royal Irrigation Department is urging farmers in the Chao Phraya River Basin to not pump water into their fields for the next three days, during which the agency will assess the drought situation in different areas, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said yesterday.
The department has only been allowing water to be channelled into areas suffering severe drought and will provide a clear answer in three days as to whether water would be channelled in other areas too, he said. 
Soldiers are now on standby, ready to respond to any complaint if farmers in the Chao Phraya River Basin are found secretly channelling water from rivers or canals into their fields. The pumps of those violating the orders will be confiscated. 
If the complaint proves true, soldiers will immediately remove pumps. 
The Cabinet had earlier this week resolved that farmers in the river basin must stop channelling water to their farmlands so as ensure the limited water supply is available for household consumption. 
The resolution came days after tap-water services began to falter near Bangkok. Yesterday, relevant agencies disclosed that tap water in many parts of Bangkok and the neighbouring province of Samut Prakan were already facing the risk of salt-water intrusion.
The protesting farmers in Ayutthaya’s Pak Hai district demanded that the Royal Irrigation Department open a local water gate to allow water to flow through the totally dry Lad Chado Canal. But their demand was rejected.
Since Thursday, the irrigation department has shut 330 water gates in the Chao Phraya River basin as one of the measures to save water for tap-water production. Soldiers also have been ordered to seek cooperation from farmers to stop using water for their farms. Maintenance officers, soldiers and local authorities met the protesters yesterday to explain to them about the water scarcity, and farmers were asked to stop the protest. 
In the nearby province of Chainat, soldiers are patrolling 20 kilometres of the Chainat-Pasak Canal four times every day to enforce restrictions on water use for farming.
Lieutenant Suchat Phonto, Commander of the 10th Chainat Cooperation Force, said they had been ordered to work with the Royal Irrigation Department to enforce water use restriction and negotiate with farmers not to use pump water from the canal.
“If we find any farmers pumping water, we will first ask them to stop and if they want the authorities to help with their hardship, we will pass on their appeal and allocate compensation as per government policy,” Suchat said.
So far, soldiers in Angthong’s Wiset Chai Chan district said they had checked farmers at various farms and found that their pumps were not on. “These farmers just sleep near the pumps to watch over them, worried that someone might steal them,” a soldier said on condition of anonymity. 
Meanwhile, Lt-Colonel Chin-krit Aimphan, the commander of Second Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, arranged a meeting with the local authorities in Pathum Thani’s Klong Luang district to discuss water management.
His Majesty has also ordered water supply centres be set up in 53 provinces to help drought-affected people. 
The water supply centres are a collaboration between the Rajaprajanugroh Foundation under Royal Patronage, the Dep-artment of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, and the Education Ministry. The centres are located in Rajaprajanugroh Schools and schools under the Bureau of Special Education in 53 provinces. The centres have been operating since yesterday. The public can get water at a nearby centre during operating hours until the drought ends.
Meanwhile, artificial rain operations this year were deemed successful, as the Grand Chamberlain Distorn Vajarodaya found waterflow into the Pasak Jolasid Dam had increased.
It was revealed that this year’s rain-making operations were much easier than during the 1999 drought, as there was much moisture in the atmosphere.

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