Thailand’s agriculture ministry signaled that a water crisis may ease over the next few months because supply in the nation’s dams should be sufficient until seasonal rains begin in April or May.
Dams that supply Thailand’s central plains hold about 2.4 billion cubic feet of water, less than half the volume of a year ago and well below the normal level of 10 billion cubic feet, Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, the agriculture ministry’s permanent secretary, said at a seminar Thursday in Bangkok. That’s enough to last until the end of July, he said.
While the government has said the deficit won’t affect industrial users and has ruled out shortages of tap water for consumption, many rice farmers won’t be able to irrigate their crops until the wet season starts in May, according to Theerapat. The central plains are a key plantation area for Thailand’s secondary rice crop, which is mostly dependent on irrigation.
The government has encouraged rice farmers to switch to crops that need less water and provided them with funds to help offset production costs. It has also formulated a 10-year management plan that calls for the construction of more reservoirs and improvements to the national irrigation system.
Industrial estates in Samut Prakarn, Samut Sakorn, Rayong and Chonburi aren’t likely to face water shortages, Bowon Vongsinudom, vice chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said at the same event.
Drought damaged 2.86 million rai (457,600 hectares) of land, mostly rice plantations, between October and March, according to ministry data. Almost 273,000 farmers have been affected, mostly in the country’s northeast.