Submerged Thai temple reappears after drought

Visitors exploring the ruins of Wat Nong Bua Yai (right), while a family prays at the headless Buddha statue (below). Construction of a dam 20 years ago caused the temple to be submerged, but drought has caused water levels in the reservoir to fall t
Visitors exploring the ruins of Wat Nong Bua Yai (above), while a family prays at the headless Buddha statue. Construction of a dam 20 years ago caused the temple to be submerged, but drought has caused water levels in the reservoir to fall to below 3 per cent of its capacity, revealing the temple. PHOTO: REUTERS
Visitors exploring the ruins of Wat Nong Bua Yai (right), while a family prays at the headless Buddha statue (below). Construction of a dam 20 years ago caused the temple to be submerged, but drought has caused water levels in the reservoir to fall t
Visitors exploring the ruins of Wat Nong Bua Yai, while a family prays at the headless Buddha statue (above). Construction of a dam 20 years ago caused the temple to be submerged, but drought has caused water levels in the reservoir to fall to below 3 per cent of its capacity, revealing the temple. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOPBURI (Thailand) • Thousands are flocking to see a Buddhist temple in central Thailand that has been exposed after drought drove water levels to record lows in a reservoir where it had been submerged.

The reservoir has fallen to less than 3 per cent of its capacity, revealing the remains of Wat Nong Bua Yai, a temple submerged during the construction of the dam 20 years ago.

Some Buddhist monks were among the hundreds who walked through broken temple structures on cracked earth littered with dead fish last week to pay respect to a headless 4m Buddha statue.

"The temple is normally covered by water. In the rainy season you don't see anything," said one of the visitors, Mr Somchai Ornchawiang, a 67-year-old retired teacher.

Mr Somchai regretted the temple flooding but is now worried about the damage that the drought is causing to farmland, he said.

The dam normally irrigates more than 526,000ha of farmland in four provinces, but drought has cut that to just 1,214ha in Lopburi province.

The meteorological department says Thailand is facing its worst drought in a decade, with water levels in dams nationwide having fallen far short of the monthly average.

Mr Yotin Lopnikorn, 38, headman of the Nong Bua village that used to be near the temple, recalls visiting it with friends as a child, before dam construction forced the villagers out. "I always came to meet friends at the elephant sculptures in front of the main building to play there," he said.

At the time, the temple was the centre of the community and was used to conduct rituals, festivities and educational activities, besides functioning as a playground and recreational area.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2019, with the headline 'Submerged Thai temple reappears after drought'. Print Edition | Subscribe