Farmers suffer as reservoirs dry up

national June 28, 2015 01:00

By THE SUNDAY NATION

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Prayut unveils six govt strategies to alleviate water shortage



WITH the North and Northeast suffering from severe drought, rice fields in Roi Et’s Suwannaphum district were parched yesterday as water levels were far too low in four local reservoirs for irrigation. Also, farmers outside the irrigation area have already sown seeds for a third crop and are hoping for rain. 
Provincial governor Somsak Jangtrakul led a team of officials to inspect the farms and come up with a plan to handle water shortage. The team found that the water level in reservoir Nong Tha Jok was very low compared to previous years. This reservoir can hold up to 1,190 million cubic metres of water and supplies irrigation via four canals to 60,000-rai of rice fields during the dry season. Yesterday, Nong Tha Jok was only 1 per cent full, while levels in other reservoirs were also too low to irrigate farms. 
Since rice fields have another 20 days or so before they start withering, Somsak said he hoped it would start raining soon to alleviate the situation. He has called on officials to have pumps and other equipment ready to supply water as well as getting ready for rain-making operations. 
Panitan Sunarak, Suwannaphum district chief, said tens of thousand of rai of rice fields were affected and that sowing for a third crop would be a waste, much like the previous two sowings. 
Meanwhile, Nakhon Ratchasima agriculture official Somboon Saram said the province’s 25 districts had been declared disaster zones and 800,000 residents, especially rice farmers, were badly affected. 
In Buri Ram’s Satuk district, more than 4,000 rubber trees in Tambon Nikhom have withered away due to the lack of water. So village headman Prasit Traengyodram is calling on the authorities to provide aid to affected rubber growers. 
Farmer Ratree Mai-ngam said the damage to her two-year-old rubber trees had seriously affected her family and they were now all in the red. 
In his weekly “Returning Happiness to the People” televised address, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha revealed six strategies the government has drawn up to handle water challenges across the country. These strategies include preparing raw water for tap water production in 7,500 rural villages and 700 urban areas nationwide, which will be implemented from now until 2017, while the 9,000 existing water-supply systems would be made more efficient. 
To ensure water security in the production sector, the government will build 369 new water-storage systems and excavate 50,000 ponds in farmland and 1,285 artesian wells, as well as help 895 natural water resources to recover, Prayut said. 
The government would expand irrigation areas by 2.2 million rai next year, and hopes to increase this by 10 million rai over the next decade or so. 
As for his government’s three-year water-management-and-flood-control plan, Prayut said the authorities would improve the main water routes and 30 tributaries, covering more than 75 kilometres in total. Some 13 embankments would be raised to prevent soil erosion and flooding. 
In terms of water quality, the government will develop 36 wastewater-treatment plants and remove solid waste and weeds from 399 water sources nationwide, he said. 
Lastly, the government will reforest a combined area of 25,000 rai and grow vetiver grass on 645,000 rai of land – which would be completed by the end of September – in order to conserve and rehabilitate watershed forest areas and prevent soil erosion.
 

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