PM wants cooperation from public amid fears about severe drought and low water levels in country's dams
THE government wants the famed Songkran Festival this year toned down to “rod nam dam hua” – pouring a small amount of water on the hands of revered elders to ask for blessings – in the face of the country’s drought problem.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is concerned about the drought and has asked for public cooperation in saving water, while waterworks authorities are controlling water supplies, Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.
He said the government would soon campaign more to save water by asking the public to offer water blessings during Songkran instead of engaging in “water wars”.
Along with saving water, the premier wants to preserve the good tradition of the festival, he added.
Sansern reported that Prayut was scheduled to lead related ministers on a visit to the Northeast from March 16-18 to inspect drought-hit areas, possibly at Udon Thani and Nong Khai provinces.
The spokesman dismissed reports that the entire country was facing severe water shortages.
He said the Royal Irrigation Department reported there were 3 billion cubic metres of water in four major dams while there was enough water in dams for people’s general use and for maintaining dams’ bio-systems and for pushing out seawater along the Chao Phraya River basin area.
Sansern said most farmers knew there was insufficient water for agricultural purposes so those growing rice would be doing so at their own risk.
The spokesman admitted some areas had been hit by severe drought, with drought disaster zones declared in 46 districts of 12 provinces.
He said the Cabinet had approved drought-relief measures worth Bt93 billion via the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives to aid some 670,000 farmers.
He said the government would increase water supplies by launching royal rainmaking operations from March 1 in Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Nakhon Sawan, Kanchanaburi, Udon Thani, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chanthaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Surat Thani provinces and by digging 2,000 wells in the Chao Phraya River basin area.
Meanwhile, Nakhon Ratchasima Governor Wichian Chantharanothai and his team yesterday visited the 30-bed Phra Thong Kham Hospital, which is suffering a serious water shortage. That is particularly the case for cleaning medical instruments and for patient use – both bathing and consumption.
Wichian said the installation of a Bt400,000 salt water filtering system at the hospital would be completed early next month and that should alleviate the problem.
The hospital receives 10,000 litres of water a week from two tambon administrations. It needs about 100 litres a day to wash medical equipment.
Wichian said that to find a long-term solution the provincial health office had approved Bt1.8 million to build a water-filter facility at the hospital.
In Nakhon Ratchasima’s Bua Yai district, many farmers have seen their rice paddies wither.
Ten districts in the province, including Bua Yai, have been declared drought-disaster zones.
It was reported that some 57,000 households and 466,000 rai (74,000 hectares) of farmland in the districts have been affected.
Irrigation Office 8 director Chitchanok Somprasert said water levels in the northeastern province’s five main dams were falling.
The Lam Takhong Dam is at 26 per cent of capacity, the Lam Phra Phloeng Dam is at 63 per cent of capacity, the Lam Chae reservoir 28 per cent, the Mun Bon reservoir at 27 per cent and the Lam Plai Mat Dam is at 50 per cent.