Thai PM wants urgent plan on drought

Thai PM wants urgent plan on drought
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha
PHOTO: AFP

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has demanded that authorities present within two weeks clear measures on how to help farmers cope with drought - and explain if they are to be asked to skip growing rice.

While rain is now pouring down on many parts of the country, drought has already hit several other areas.

"The prime minister has made it clear that if farmers have to adjust their farming pattern upon a request from the government, assistance should be provided," Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday after Prayut presided over the meeting on the country's water situation.

Sansern said the prime minister was concerned about both flood and drought threats.

Royal Irrigation Department deputy director-general Suthep Noipairoj has suggested that farmers would not be able to grow rice during the coming dry season.

The country could normally irrigated about 15 million rai of paddy fields during the dry season. But the situation has been changing drastically.

According to an informed source, the Agriculture Ministry was planning to ask the Cabinet to close down water gates and pump stations across the country to stop farmers from pumping water into their farms as soon as the dry season started on November 1.

The plan, the source said, was in response to the grim facts that |the water volume in the country's major dams was now critically |low.

Yesterday, Sirikit Dam director Suthep Lertsrimongkhon said his dam had just 4,155 million cubic metres of water now. Of this amount, only 1,300 million were usable.

"But we need more than 3,000 million cubic metres of water to help the country cope with the coming dry season," he said.

His dam has now reduced its discharged-water volume from 9 million cubic metres to just 5 million cubic metres.

Sansern said yesterday that Prayut had also instructed all relevant authorities and officials, including teachers, kamnans and village heads to help communicate with locals about the water situation.

"We now plan to update people about the water situation. They will know the facts around the same time as the government so that they find it easier to understand measures that have to come out," Sansern said.

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