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Chaingrai Farming & Agriculture

Rice Farmers in North, Northeast Thailand Face Worst Drought in 40 Years

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CHIANG RAI – Rice Farmers in northern and northeastern Thailand are facing possibly the worst drought in 40 years, with crops withering and tap water on the verge of drying up in some areas.

Provincial waterworks officials on Friday warned of a looming shortage of tap water in areas where levels in local reservoirs are dropping.

“This is the longest the rains have held off in 40 years,” said Prayat Raksachat, who operates a piped water system in Thap Kwai, a village in tambon Chiwan in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Phimai district.

“The tap water supply is currently at only 1% of capacity,” Mr Prayat  told the Bangkok Post.

He was worried how the village of 500 residents would find water for daily use and consumption.

Throughout much of the Northeast, in areas without irrigation, rice crops have wilted and turned yellow and will soon die off unless there is rain.

Chaiyong Chaiburi, a farmer in tambon Chiwan, said arid weather conditions have forced him to reap all the rice plants on his 50 rai of paddy.

“I used it to feed my buffaloes,” he said. “It’s better to see the rice put to good use instead of just withering away and dying.”

In Chaiyaphum province, residents have resorted to an ancient ritual known as “hae nang maeo” in a desperate attempt to appease the gods and have them dump rain on the arid areas.

By tradition the villagers throw water on cats being carried around in cages. It is believed a cat’s cry will be heard by the Gods as a request for rain.

“But we know now that treating cats that way is cruelty to animals, so we use toy cats instead,” Songkhram Wonsikhai, a 75-year-old local wiseman, said.

The situation is the Northern is Equally Worrying

The water level in the Mae Kuang Udom Thara Reservoir in Chiang Mai province has fallen to only 12% of its capacity  — worse than the level seen during the drought crisis in 2015.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Prapat Pothasuthon said the ministry will keep the farmers updated about the drought and weather conditions.

“Despite the severe conditions, we need to tell the truth to farmers.

They must know whether their plants will survive or not,” he said.

Thailand is not the only Asia country suffering from drought during the rainy season.

India, Pakistan and Myanmar face a similar situation, because the humidity from the North Pole has not come south as it normally should have, Smith Thammasaroj, former chairman of the National Disaster Warning Centre, said

This will mean less or even no rainfall until late August or September, he said.

The Meteorological Department said that the delay in the rains was partly caused by a warmer Pacific Ocean, which will decrease rainfall in the East and Central Plains, including Bangkok, by 5% until next month.