Expert warns of severe drought in Thailand next year

Water levels in the Bang Pakong River in Chachoengsao are running very low as the country enters the dry season.

Low dam levels, El Nino phenomenon point to water shortages: scientist.

Thailand may face a severe drought next year due to the El Nino weather phenomenon, a leading meteorologist has warned.

In another worrying sign, experts have warned that the current volume of water reserves in the major dams is not enough to meet demand this year.

Maytee Mahayosananta, director of the Meteorological Department's Central Weather Forecast Division, said after he studied several weather forecast models, he found that the El Nino phenomenon would start in Thailand this year.

As a result, Maytee said Thailand would not have enough water this year and next year as the phenomenon reduced rainfall.

"The volume of water this year will be less than that in 2013," he said.

According to the Royal Irrigation Department, the volume of water reserves in two major dams, Bhumibol and Sirikit, was only 21 per cent or about 3,893 million cubic metres.

This amount of water will be used in the Chao Phraya river basin.

The department found that the amount of water reserves in the two dams has drastically decreased and will not be enough for human use and to preserve ecosystems.

Thongplew Kongjun, director of the Department's Office of Water Management and Hydrology, has urged members of the public and farmers to be conservative in the use of water.

He said that the department this year expected to use 5.3 billion cubic metres of water from three major dams during the dry season but the water reserves it had used exceeded the plan by 600 million cubic metres.

Rains to arrive late

Additionally, the department expects the rainy season to start later this year than normal in mid-May, which means Thailand will not have water reserves this year and next year.

"Hopefully, farmers will not start planting their rice farms during this season. If they don't, then we will have enough water," Thongplew added.

Suwattana Jitraladakorn, chairman of the Engineering Institute of Thailand's water resources engineering sub-panel, said the amount of water in the Chao Phraya River this year was lower than normal.

He said that water reserves in major dams were low because the authorities had discharged a large volume of water in 2012.

Also, he found that the total number of rice farms this year had grown over 200 per cent.

Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute director Royol Chitradon said there was some rainfall in the upper areas of the Bhumibol and Sirikit dams, and that was why there were small amounts of water reserves in the dams.

"We found that the level of water reserves in these two dams was the lowest in 10 years," he said.

According to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, about 38 provinces nationwide have been declared drought zones.

In a bid to resolve drought problems in the long term, National Water and Flood Management secretary general Suphot Tovichakchaikul said all abandoned water resources must be recovered and have their capacity improved.

The use of water must be matched by demand and supply in local areas, he said. He said he was preparing a Bt2-trillion mega project to connect all water resources and distribute water directly to farmers.

Under this project, the water from the Mekong River will be diverted to the Kingdom during the rain season.

"This project will be proposed to the new government," he said.