Because of drought disaster faced by many provinces in Thailand, more severe than last year’s, the government has set up a water crisis center. The center will act as a special command center, a temporary one until the situation improves. This will be operated by the Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) and “will oversee operations, situational forecasts, management, crisis warnings, and public relations’ (Sangiam, 2020).
The ONWR is working to comply with the 20-year national strategy to provide clean and sustainable water resources to the people and industries, prevent damages from flooding, ensuring a balance of the use of water resources and public cooperation (Sangiam, 2020).
Thailand and the effects of changing climate patterns
Sahisna Suwal who wrote “Water in Crisis – Thailand” on “The Water Project” website mentions:
- The Kingdom of Thailand is in Southeast Asia with a population of over 68 million spread over 513,115 square kilometres of land area. Thailand has a total of 25 river basin and an annual rainfall of 1700mm. Their primary source of drinking water is from surface and groundwater sources, like many Asian countries it is continuously threatened by industrial waste contamination and agricultural and human activities.
- Increasing population and urbanisation also slowly degrades the water quality and resources as well. One-third of its surface water is of poor quality. Their largest source of groundwater is the Lower Central plain surrounding Bangkok which is used to meet the region’s demand, however, it is being over-extracted and exploited because there is no existing policy to control the amounts of water drawn from it in terms of sustainable yield levels.
- The changing climate patterns in Thailand has led to irregular rainfall which causes the droughts. They do not large reservoirs to store water and relies heavily on dams. But increasing droughts has lowered the dam’s water-level and impacting their rice production. Thailand is large rice exporter, and their agricultural sector consumes 70 per cent of their national water supply. So, insufficient water supply caused by droughts can impact their economy as well.
- Flooding is also another problem that is facing the country. Many regions experiencing heavy rainfall can cause damage to their agriculture and livestock (Suwal, 2019).
Water scarcity is one of the global threats in 2025, that will severely hit Thailand. To survive it, the country needs a long-term plan to cope with this imminent challenge starting with an effective water management strategy(Suwal, 2019).
What the Thai government is doing
Bangrapa (7 January, 2020) says that Thailand’s cabinet is set to approve 3 billion baht equivalent to US$96 million in funding to combat water shortages in Thailand’s especially in vulnerable areas as announced by the Office of National Water Resources (ONWR).
ONWR secretary-general Somkiat Prajamwong said that the funding is from the central budget and will be used to implement 2,041 short-term relief projects to alleviate the worst effects of droughts from May to June. The projects include digging artesian wells which will be done by four government agencies including the Armed Forces Development Command (Bangprapa, 2020).
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said that authorities plan to dig more than 500 artesian wells this year and adds that adequate measures are set up to ensure that water supplies are available until July (Bangprapa, 2020).
Additionally, when the 2020 fiscal budget is passed, state agencies are required to disburse funds worth 9.4 billion baht or approximately US$ 300 million to implement 1,435 water projects in 54 provinces as soon as possible. The outcome of these projects will be to store 135 million cubic meters of additional water and will be done before the rainy season, says Mr Somkiat.
Bangrapa (7 January 2020) that, however, not every inch of Thailand will have access to this water due to geographical locations. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urged residents to build small ponds to retain water for consumption during the dry season, the report says.