As planting season commences for the Thai agricultural sector, there is mounting concern over the availability of water resources necessary for farming, given the low levels of rainfall recorded since the beginning of the year. Supit Pitaktham, director-general of the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation, has reported that soil moisture levels are relatively low, consequently impacting around 78% of the 116 million rai (18.56 million hectares) of agricultural land situated outside the irrigated zone. Approximately 230 million rai (36.8 million hectares) of agricultural land and forestry have been affected due to insufficient water supply for crop cultivation. This has resulted in numerous farmers and individuals in several provinces appealing for artificial rain services.
During the first half of May, a total of 1,387 requests were received for artificial rain from 64 provinces and 459 districts across the country. Concurrently, water stocks in storage reservoirs have dwindled, sometimes to levels less than 50% of capacity. This has prompted the Royal Irrigation Department to request assistance from the Royal Rainfall and Agricultural Aviation Department in organizing artificial rain services to restore water levels in 70 major reservoirs throughout the nation.
This year’s weather predictions anticipate that the El Niño phenomenon will give rise to reduced rainfall throughout the wet season when compared to last year’s figures. As such, rainfall is expected to decrease by the middle of the year, increasing the threat of drought due to unusually high temperatures. Government agencies have adjusted their action plans to address this potential drought. Twelve regional artificial rainmaking units, which include 23 aircraft from the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation and six from the Air Force, have been established since May 1.
These artificial rain operation units have been strategically placed in various locations: the upper North (Chiang Mai and Tak provinces); lower North (Phitsanulok); Central (Lopburi and Kanchanaburi); upper Northeast (Khon Kaen); lower Northeast (Nakhon Ratchasima and Ubon Ratchathani); East (Chanthaburi); South (Surat Thani, Songkhla, Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan).
The Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation diligently monitors daily weather conditions, water levels, and water requirements of the public to plan and execute intensive rainmaking operations, thereby ensuring adequate water supply for agricultural, consumer, and storage purposes, including electricity generation, tap water production, and industrial needs. The department is also vigilant in tracking the development of summer storms that have the potential to generate hailstorms. Teams responsible for continuous surveillance have been deployed at the units in Phitsanulok and Chiang Mai provinces.
Supit revealed that between February 15 and May 14, there were 67 rainmaking operational days, with 1,501 flights recorded. Rainfall was documented in 62 provinces, including Lampang, Chiang Mai, Phrae, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chaiyaphum, Buri Ram, Nakhon Sawan, Uthai Thani, Kanchanaburi, Suphanburi, Chanthaburi, Ratchaburi, Phatthalung, and various other regions.