Least Rain in 30 Years Forecast as Drought Parches Upper Kingdom

A dried out stretch of the Yom River seen Wednesday in Phichit province.
A dried out stretch of the Yom River seen Wednesday in Phichit province.

PHICHIT — A top meteorologist said the amount of rainfall this summer will be the lowest in 30 years, and 17 provinces have been warned of drought.

As Thailand enters its hottest period to last through mid-May, a number of northern and northeastern provinces have already begun to wither. Though water levels at many dams have fallen low and less rain is forecast, officials insist water reserves are sufficient through late July.

The deputy director-general of the Meteorological Department visited the central province of Phichit yesterday, where parts of the Yom River have dried out entirely. He said average rainfall is predicted to be the lowest in 30 years this season and advised farmers to limit their water consumption in case of a shortage.

Gen. Chatchai Sarikulya, a deputy prime minister, said Wednesday that about 17 provinces in the north and northeast are at risk of severe drought. He added that urgent relief measures might include drawing water from other reservoirs to fill those running low.

Officials said Thursday that reserves at the Lam Pao Dam, a major northeastern reservoir in Kalasin province, have fallen sharply and remain at about 39 percent of capacity. Still, they said that should suffice until June in the event of no rain.

In Loei province, officials said water levels at one provincial reservoir were the lowest in 32 years, and that they were looking into drawing water from another reservoir.

In Khon Kaen, the provincial governor said water at all sources, natural and artificial, have been quickly drying up, with one district only able to supply households for about a month.

Late last month, officials there said the Ubol Ratana Dam’s reserves were down to about 28 percent of capacity, only 5 percent of which was usable.

Somkiat Prajamwong of the National Water Resources Office said there might be virtually no rain during the next two months. He said several areas in Chiang Mai, Nakhon Sawan, Chaiyaphum, Nakhon Ratchasima, Loei, Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi will soon face water shortages.