Army to guard water supplies as irrigation officials admit mistakes
By Terry Frederickson
The Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives Ministry will ask the army to deploy forces to guard sluice gates amid the water crisis.
Minister Pitipong Phuengboon Na Ayudhaya was speaking Monday after state agencies met to discuss the recent dry spell.
Local agencies, particularly the army, will be asked to cooperate to discourage farmers from starting more cultivation, Mr Pitipong said.
Soldiers will be asked to help protect sluice gates due to concerns they are being forced to open to aid crop cultivation.
The ministry also wants them to ward off any conflicts among farmers due to limitedwater supply.
“We don’t want to see a water war among the citizens,” Mr Pitipong said.
Meanwhile, the ministry will survey 1.25 million raisurvey (noun)Meaning: a unit for measuring land, equal to 2/5 of an acre or 1,600 square metres of rice fields in the Chao Phraya River basin and encourage farmers to grow short-lived crops, such as corn, or raise livestock instead, the minister said.Deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd urged people to help conserve water and refrain from activities using large volumes of water, such as filling residential swimming pools. “I believe that with cooperation between all Thais, we will be able to get through this drought crisis together,” said Maj Gen Sansern.
The long-lasting drought during the rainy season has raised questions about the watermanagement plan of the Royal Irrigation Department (RID).
After a flooding disaster hit the country in 2011, which caused an estimated economic loss of more than 1.4 billion baht, the RID changed its guidelines for water levelstorage, known as “rule curves”, so dams could discharge water from the reservoirsearly in the rainy season.
However, over the past few years, less rainfall has been experienced which meant thevolume of water kept in the country’s two main large dams— Bhumibol in Tak province and Sirikit dam in Uttaradit province — had fallen significantly.
The TMD suggested the worsening situation this year was due to the El Nino phenomenon that causes less rainfall in Southeast Asia.
Hannarong Yaowalers, chairman of Thai-Water Partnerships, said the RID and other water management agencies should reconsider their water management policy by focusing on water consumption security as well as flood prevention.
“They are afraid of repeats of heavy floods so they don’t care much about the droughtproblem, but the department should balance this against managing water consumptioneffectively,” he said.
The RID admitted last week it had made a mistake with its water management when the drought came unexpectedly during the rainy season.