Thai ministries told to 'find solutions' as farmers ignore drought warnings

Jeerapong Prasertponkrung and Supasak Taptimprai, The Nation AsiaOne 8 Nov 15;

PRIME Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed three ministries to urgently find solutions to what is forecast to be the country's imminent drought crisis.

"The order was given to the Industry Ministry, the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, and also the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry," Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.

Sansern said four major dams in the Chao Phraya River basin had just 4,157 million cubic metres of water in total. Most of this amount - about 3,500 million cubic metres - would be needed for consumption and maintaining the ecological system from now till July.

Sansern said the limited water supply could be affected if factories continued to release wastewater into public waterways and if farmers used water for paddy fields outside the rainy season.

"Drought is expected to be more serious than ever in the coming year," he warned.

Surasak Rangrongthanin, a senior official at Irrigation Office 10, said the Royal Irrigation Department had urged farmers to stop diverting water from irrigation canals to their paddy fields since November 1.

"But farmers have lambasted us. They say when such an order comes out, those who don't cooperate have always managed to earn money from their farmland," he said.

So, many farmers were now growing rice in their fields.

Naris Poonsap, kamnan of Tambon Bang Peung in Lop Buri's Ban Mi district, said farmers had started growing rice on about 1,000 rai (160 hectares) in total. "It's not possible to bar them from using water from canals," he said.

Farmers believe that if they do the right thing and stop working fields, others will not stop.

As a result, many of them have refused to respond to the government policy calling on them to consider taking other jobs during the dry season, which started on November 1.

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