Chiang Mai Citylife > CityNews > Features and Analysis > Drought Almost Over, but Farmers Urged to Hold off on Planting Rice

Drought Almost Over, but Farmers Urged to Hold off on Planting Rice

CityNews – “The water crisis has passed, Jansark Limpiti, Director of Chiang Mai Irrigation Office told CityNews, “But while the crisis has passed, we are still rationing and managing water resources with great attention to details.”

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According to Jansark, the absolute crisis this year occurred in mid-May, when water levels were at their most alarmingly low. “As I told you in our interview earlier this year, we had planned for this drought since November 2015. We knew it was going to be a rough year and we knew how much water we had, so we came up with a 26 week plan, to manage our water resources. We decided that we could not release more than 1.7 million cubic metres (CBM) of water per week for Chiang Mai, and on the most part our plan and management served us well. There were two crisis weeks, once was on week 13 when we had issues with Lamphun Industrial Estate not having water as it was downstream from a district which has diverted the water from the Ping River for a fish farm. That took a lot of work to sort out. The second problem came mid-may in week 20 when our 1.7 million CBM only went as far downstream as Pa Sang, again, it was diverted by farmers along the way. At that point, it wasn’t just farmers who had no access to water, there was no drinking water for those south of Pasang. We had to release 4.3 million CBM that week. It was a big risk as our water supply was so low, but we knew the rains were around the corner.”

According to Jansark, Mae Ngad Dam, currently holds 40 million CBM, out of its capacity of 265 million CBM and Mae Kuang Dam holds 28 million CBM out of its capacity of 263 million CBM. While this is worryingly low, much water has been added to the two reservoirs following recent rains. When Citylife interviewed Jansark in February, Mae Ngad had 60 million CBM and Mae Kuang Had 31 million CBM, both have been the main sources of water for Chiang Mai province over the past four months of drought.

“At the beginning of May we were getting very worried as demand of water was high, both for personal use and agricultural. In Mae Ngad’s 35 years and Mae Kuang’s 22 year, the water levels had never been anywhere near that low. In mid-May, Mae Ngad had 23 million CBM and Mae Kuang had 21 million CBM, it was a very worrying time. Thankfully as things began to get really serious, the rains came.”

Jansark says that he is urging people to still be careful with use of water as the rains are expected to stop in the last week of June until around mid-July and he asks farmers especially to not plant rice until mid July.

“We have learnt a lot this year. We have learned that we can manage limited water resouces, now we need to do studies and plans for when water resources are even scarcer. There will be many studies and plans made after we pass this year’s crisis. One issue we faced is that farmers don’t always trust our news, or listen to it. In spite of the drought, between 50-60,000 rai of rice was planted in Chiang Mai, mostly by farmers with easy access to the Ping River, this has caused great hardship for those further downstream. We need to really make sure that people don’t do this again. If everyone followed our plan, there would have been enough water for everyone in Chiang Mai, but there were many weeks that districts further south suffered this year, and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”