Drought crisis threatens Bangkok

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is on a visit to the northeastern provinces in a bid to receive first-hand accounts of the developing drought crisis.

Ms Yingluck’s tour of the Northeast took her to Khon Kaen, Sakon Nakorn and Mukdahan. In Sakon Nakorn, she held a meeting with governors of 13 northeastern provinces to discuss the devastating impact of drought and measures to cope with the dry season.

The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation has reported that so far 18 provinces have been declared drought-affected areas. The department is urging locals to use water sparingly, and prepare water reserves for general consumption. Farmers should make an agricultural plan in accordance with water allocation plans for the area and stop growing off-season rice to protect agricultural crops and rice fields from being damaged by water shortages.

Drought has taken a heavy toll on several northern and northeastern provinces of Thailand, affecting local residents and their farming. Khon Kaen has growing water shortage problems as supplies drop in dams and rivers, with the most recent rainfall in the northeastern province reported in December–nearly three months ago.

In Buri Ram province, water has been distributed to residents, temples, schools in 22 villages of Nong Tad Municipality who have suffered from drought.

In the northernmost province of Chiang Rai, drought, combined with the closure of sluice gates in China’s Yunnan province for maintenance, has caused the water level in Mekong River at Chiang Saen district to drop so dramatically that sand dunes are exposed.

In Bangkok, the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA) is advising households to stockpile water as a new round of saltwater intrusion threatens to disrupt tap water production in the city.

Water salinity at the Samlae water production facility in Pathum Thani is predicted to peak between March 3 and 10 as low water levels in the Chao Phraya River lead to increased tidal inflow from the sea. Saltwater intrusion is expected to hit harder than usual this year due to the early onset of the dry season in many areas.

The drought has begun to impact agriculture not only in Thailand but also across both Malaysia and Singapore. Drinking water shortages have also become a concern and could result in hundreds of thousands of people seeing their water supplies run dry in the coming weeks if rain does not return.

Another rising concern is that a continuation of the dry weather already impacting the region will result in an increased risk of wildfires during the spring and summer months.

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