Thailand hit by its worst drought in decades

Thai dams run low as an El Nino-induced water shortage reduces reservoirs to critical levels.

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    The Mae Chang reservoir in Lampang province, northern Thailand, has almost dried up [EPA/Rungroj Yongrit]
    The Mae Chang reservoir in Lampang province, northern Thailand, has almost dried up [EPA/Rungroj Yongrit]

    Thailand is in the grip of its worst drought for more than 20 years, with water levels in the country's biggest dams lower than 10 percent.

    The current drought has hit the north hardest, with 22 of Thailand's 76 provinces affected.

    Agriculture has been severely affected, and there are genuine fears that taps could run dry within a matter of weeks. Several major reservoirs in the country are below 50 percent of their water capacity.

    The situation is so bad at the Ubolrat dam they are about to dip into what is locally known as "dead storage" - this refers to the last 1 percent in the bottom of the reservoir.

    Drastic action is now being taken and it is causing controversy.

    Thailand recently started pumping water from the Mekong River into its own waterways.

    Unsurprisingly, this has sparked concern from downstream countries such as Vietnam, which is suffering its worst drought in almost a century.

    Thailand has also turned to its Royal Rainmakers for help - they are the Thai Department of Royal Rainmaking and are responsible for seeding the clouds over the kingdom. As of now, there have not been enough clouds to make this an effective process.

    Concessions will have to be made for this New Year's festival in April. It is called "Songkran" and it is celebrated with water - in fact, lots of water.

    The original idea was to sprinkle water on family members for good fortune while paying respect to images of Buddha. Now water pistols and buckets are used to drench each other.

    With no rain in the short-term forecast, the deputy of Bangkok has announced that the city is considering reducing the festival to three days instead of four.

    Meanwhile, as El Nino continues to weaken, it is hoped that the monsoon rains will be prompt and plentiful. They are due to arrive in June.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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