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By Linda Khoo Hui Li
BANGKOK, Jan 14 – Thailand is bracing for the worst drought in decades worsened by the intrusion of saltwater into the Chao Phraya River, the main water source for Central Thailand.
This year, the dry season came earlier than usual and it is predicted to be a prolonged one.
Making matters worse is the rising sea level and intensification of groundwater pumping, which has caused increased saltwater intrusion in groundwater and affected tap water production.
Deputy secretary-general of Office of National Water Resources Samroeng Saengphuwong said Thailand is expected to face its worst drought in four decades.
“Dry season comes earlier this year and it could last until May. Usually, it lasts through April. We could face severe drought between February and April.
“The water level in major reservoirs and dams is holding less than 30 per cent of their total storage following early dry season,” he told Bernama.
He added that last year’s drought has also contributed to less water storage in major reservoirs and dams nationwide.
Thailand Meteorological Department predicted that the first months of the rainy season – May and June – will see less rainfall compared to last year.
“This could worsen water level in rivers and dams,” Samroeng said.
At present, 18 provinces have been declared drought-affected zones and 54 provinces are ‘at risk’ of lacking sufficient water supply.
Thai Provincial Waterworks Authority (PWA) said the drought will affect 61 water production facilities in 31 provinces – 15 in the northeast, nine in the north, six in the south and one in the east – and warned those in the provinces to brace for severe drought.
The worsening droughts have compelled the authorities to drill wells, extract ground water and build extra water storage facilities to relieve the situation.
Last week, the cabinet approved 3 billion baht to implement various measures to tackle water shortages in the country. The funding will be dispersed to implement 2,041 projects.
Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan o-cha urged the people to reduce water consumption, and the government has set up a water command centre to coordinate its response to tackle drought in the kingdom.
Led by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the command centre will assess the drought situation, manage water supply and offer immediate assistance to affected victims.