Thailand, Malaysia hit by water shortage

Farmers in a parched padi field in Perlis, Malaysia. The drought across the country has hit farmers hard.
Farmers in a parched padi field in Perlis, Malaysia. The drought across the country has hit farmers hard.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BANGKOK/KEPALA BATAS • Thailand will have to be extra careful with water management over the next few months to prevent drought from causing major damage. Some key dams in the country have already stopped releasing water for irrigating farmland. Dwindling supply is being rationed for human consumption and preserving the ecological balance.

More than 700 villages in the north-eastern province of Sisaket are struggling with water shortage.

Dr Kitti Paopiamsap, president of the Chachoengsao Provincial Administrative Organisation, said the crisis in the eastern province is the worst in 20 years. A dozen water trucks were requisitioned to carry 12,000 litres of water each to seriously hit areas, he said.

Director-general of the Irrigation Department Suthep Noipairoj has urged all sectors to save water so that limited supply can sustain the country until the end of July. The rainy season usually comes in May, but is expected to be late this year.

The Metropolitan Waterworks Authority, which supplies Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan, reported recently that the salinity of the Chao Phraya River had risen beyond acceptable levels several times this month. It concluded that it had to be careful in diverting water from the river. As the authorities are hesitant to release water from dams upstream, seawater has intruded into the river delta. Farmers in Nonthaburi even have to buy water for gardens and durian orchards.

Meanwhile, the harvest of about 5,000 farmers in Kepala Batas, in Penang, Malaysia, is in jeopardy because the El Nino phenomenon has caused some 8,500ha of padi fields to dry up and water to evaporate from Sungai Muda, which is used for irrigation.

Said the state's Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Rural Development and Health Committee chairman, Dr Afif Bahardin: "We are looking into the possibility of cloud seeding over the water catchment areas in Kedah."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Thailand, Malaysia hit by water shortage'. Print Edition | Subscribe