THE GOVERNMENT will revive 12 water resource management projects worth more than Bt30 billion (S$1.19 billion) for implementation in 2015-16 to ensure that the country will not face another water shortage over the next decade.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said these projects include construction of more water reservoirs and irrigation systems using the annual investment budget plus some state borrowing. In the longer term, he said, the government needs to conduct a feasibility study on water usage resources in neighbouring countries.
The Interior Ministry yesterday also got Cabinet approval to spend Bt372 million from the ministry's annual budget to dig 1,173 wells for groundwater. Cabinet also approved the ministry's proposal to help villagers in drought-affected provinces by providing a fund of Bt10 million for each province to create temporary jobs for villagers.
Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said the measure is aimed at providing immediate relief to villagers who have suffered losses due to the drought.
Even though the rainfalls have increased in the North and Northeast, he said, the government still cannot release water for farmland as it has to keep a minimum reserve for consumption and daily use.
Agriculture Minister Pitipong Puengboon Na Ayudhaya said 1.36 million rai of paddy fields in the Chao Phya Basin have been designated as priority farming areas for water.
He urged farmers to consult with local authorities before planting the second crop to make sure there is enough water.
The government cannot distribute water to all affected fields so the distribution is based on what stage the rice plants are in, he said.
"How much rice plants are considered critical is classified into three stages. The first ones, needing most urgent help, are those planted more than 8 weeks ago and are about to produce grains. More than 1.36 million rai of fields countrywide have rice plants of this stage," he said.
"The second ones are those between six to eight weeks old. These account for 1.25 million rai of fields countrywide. And the last ones, planted for less than six weeks, account for 170 thousand rai of fields and require most of the care."
Udomdej Sritabutr, the deputy defence minister, said the Army has also played a role in helping the government to implement measures to cope with the drought.
Meanwhile, Prayut responded to the news that a disgruntled farmer had taken his own life by urging farmers who have suffered from the drought to contact the government's Damrongdhama centre for help.
"Please don't do that," he said, referring to the farmer's suicide.