Thai government told to 'cut water use'

Thai government told to 'cut water use'
Farmers in Ayutthaya.
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

ALL STATE agencies have been told to cut water use by 10 per cent while people in the country, businesses and the industrial sector have also been urged to save and reduce water usage during this severe drought period.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha issued the instructions while presiding over the first National Water Resource Committee meeting at Government House yesterday.

The committee was given strategies on water resource management to increase water access nationwide and to tackle drought and flood issues in the long term.

"There are 12 projects aimed at solving shortage for every kind of water use.

The agriculture sector will get maximum water share, followed by water for sustaining the ecology, for domestic use and for industrial use," Prayut explained.

The 12 projects would prioritise increased tap water accessibility and focus on preventing drought and flood in the long term.

According to the plan, a total of 7,490 villages would have access to piped water by 2021.

The irrigation area will increase to 8.7 million rai in 2026 because of more ponds and artesian wells to supply water for farmlands. The total water available for agriculture in 2026 will rise to 7,842 million cubic metres, up sharply from the present 2,074 million cubic metres.

It is estimated that the overall expense on the projects until 2016 would be up to Bt80 billion.

Prayut insisted that the government was looking after every sector and emphasised that everyone should use the water within their quota.

"If everyone doesn't use water responsibly, there will surely be a water shortage for all sectors because all activities share the same water source," he warned.

Water Resources Department director Jatuporn Buruspat said to save water and be a role model for others, Prayut had ordered government agencies to cut water use by 10 per cent from the current 19 per cent of tap-water share. Jatuporn said that while domestic, business and industrial water consumers were not ordered to reduce water usage, the government would urge them to voluntarily save water.

Regarding the agricultural sector the biggest consumer of water he said Prayut had told the Agriculture Department to encourage farmers to grow plants that needed less water and to re-zone agricultural land use.

He said long-term solutions included considering ways to draw water from international rivers to Thailand; finding ways to use water at the bottom of dams; construction of pipes to send raw water for domestic use in the capital directly from the northern region's water source.

"Those plans are for the future, which still require further feasibility studies of possible impacts, and negotiation with all stakeholders," he added.

Meanwhile, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has granted 5,000 packs of drinking water to drought-affected residents in Pathum Thani's Thanyaburi, Lam Lukka and Nong Seu districts, a senior official at the Princess' Personal Affairs Division, Pradith Arnpothong, said yesterday.

Rice farmers in the Chao Phraya basin yesterday started pumping water into their rice fields after the government approved the water release on Tuesday. Ayutthaya Governor Apichat Todilokvechm said four sluice gates - Chao Ched, Lad Chado, Phak Hai and Khanom Jeen were opened, allowing the irrigation of more than 100,000 rai of rice fields in Sena, Phak Hai and Bang Sai districts.

In Lop Buri's Tha Wung district, Bang Nga subdistrict municipality workers installed more pumps to deliver water from Chao Phraya River to the area's 16,000 rai of dying crops, half of which could be saved by this operation.

In Phichit's Muang district, farmers persisted with pumping the remaining water from an irrigation canal onto rice fields, in defiance of the Royal Irrigation Department's orders to suspend the activities in keeping with the government's policy.

Uttaradit's Sirikit Dam reportedly received 17 million cubic metres of water per day due to the increase in rainfall and local farmers were advised to dig a pool to store the water.

Dam director Suthep Lertmongkol said the dam would still release 11 million cubic metres of water daily until August as per the Cabinet resolution. The dam level was at 276 million cubic metres or four per cent of capacity, which is considered critical, he added.

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