Smiles have returned to farmers' faces as it has finally started raining in the Chao Phraya River basin, easing severe drought conditions. However, experts warn that the rain may not be enough to fill the empty dams.
Yesterday, Deputy Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkumnerd said the situation in the country's four main dams had improved greatly, with as much as 51.28 million cubic metres flowing in on Thursday alone, and 202.73 million cubic metres in total last week.
The dams are Bhumibol, Sirikit, Pasak Jolasid and Khwae Noi Bamrungdan. According to the Royal Irrigation Department, the total inflow in all major dams had risen to 53.29 million cubic metres.
"From these figures, we can see that the water situation has improved, so the irrigation department has increased water outflow from 18 million cubic metres to 19 million cubic metres per day," Sansern said. "More water can be distributed to farmers, and with it raining in many areas, the water shortage problem has been relieved."
Theerasak Khumnguen, director of Chai Nat Provincial Agriculture Office, said recent heavy downpours had helped revive many paddy fields that were struggling with water shortage.
"The paddy fields in areas with low irrigation now have enough water, but I would still urge farmers to avoid planting a second crop, as the rain will not be enough to sustain it until harvest," he said.
"The rains will end in September, so there's only a month or so left, and rice needs four months to grow, so the water will not be enough for a second crop," he pointed out.
He also advised farmers to opt for plants that consume less water, such as corn and green beans, as per the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry's policy. The ministry will lend a helping hand by distributing seeds for free to farmers this month.
Dusadee Sukawat, a meteorology researcher at King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, also voiced concern, saying there will not be enough rain to fill the dams and that the drought will drag on.
"We need more rain than usual to refill the dams, but the recent trend shows that the rains will not be that much owing to the El Nino phenomenon. Therefore, a long drought is inevitable," Dusadee said.
According to the Meteorological Department, precipitation in the last half of the rainy season will be slightly lower than average, and only two tropical storms are predicted to hit Thailand.
Also, the total available water in the four major dams only stands at 4 per cent, according to the Royal Irrigation Department.