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El Nino Threatens Water Crisis in Thailand: Can the Unlikely Hero Save the Day?

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Amid concerns sparked by the El Nino weather phenomenon, Thailand’s Royal Irrigation Department (RID) is offering reassurances that the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) will continue to have an ample water supply. The man behind this promise is none other than the bureau’s director-general, Prapit Chanma. He stated that the plan for mitigating the impact of El Nino is already set in motion. Its primary goal is to ensure a steady water supply for the EEC’s crucial industrial sectors.

The El Nino event is a climatic anomaly predicted to influence the country’s rainfall from October to December. Its effects will most likely die down by April. It threatens to push the country’s rainfall figures below the average, posing risks to water supply stability. In comparison to the same period in the previous year, the volume of accumulated rainwater from January to July 16 has plummeted 41%, according to the Thai Meteorological Department’s data.

The EEC, which envelopes the provinces of Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, and Rayong, implements a sophisticated water management system comprising various reservoir networks. This initiative took a milestone step on May 30, when officials initiated water pumping in specific regions to fortify the Pra Sae reservoir in Rayong’s water supplies, serving as a major water distribution hub for the EEC.

Director-general Prapit assured the operation will proceed without interruptions until the year’s end, intending to uphold a consistent daily water volume of 250,000 cubic meters, or about 7.5 million m³ monthly. He also declared plans of diverting water from the Bang Pakong River and Khlong Phra-ong Chao Chaiyanuchit to the Bang Phra Dam to preserve water quality and volume in Chon Buri, matching the area’s water production standards.

Furthermore, the RID is designing plans to stave off any potential EEC operational hiccups by maintaining an unbroken water supply. Nevertheless, there are contingencies in place for diverting water whenever saline levels overshot the limit, ensuring they adhere rigidly to standard guidelines.

Reliable water supplies for the EEC draw from various sources, including the Pra Sae, Nong Pla Lai, Dok Krai, and Khlong Yai reservoirs, in addition to the dams dotting the landscape of Chon Buri. The RID is coordinating efforts with another government branch, the Department of Industrial Works, to regulate water usage, thereby guaranteeing the EEC’s water needs are met without fail.

Steps taken by the RID also span beyond immediate solutions and into a long-term framework. There are plans to expedite the development of several reservoirs within the provinces of Chanthaburi, Rayong, and Chachoengsao. Furthermore, the RID isn’t limiting its assistance only to major industrial corridors. Prapit said that they also have anticipated measures to support regions experiencing water shortages, including dispatching water pumps and trucks for aid.

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