With over a million people now affected by floods in the south, it seems ironic that farmers in the north are battling to save their crops.
Rice farmers and irrigation officials have become seriously concerned over a drought that looks set to hit farmland in the North and upper Central regions, following a drop in water levels in the Yom River and some other natural water sources.
Parts of the Yom River that run through Phichit have begun to dry up and the difficult situation will become clearer after January when people can walk across some parched sections of the river.
The Yom, whose source is in the mountains in Phayao and Phrae, is one of five major rivers in the North that flow into the Chao Phraya River .
Making matters worse, a section of the Chao Phraya in front of Wat Wongphat, a riverside temple in Ang Thong’s Chai Yo district, reportedly prompted concern when a sandbar in the middle of the river was noticed.
Farmers in the neighbourhood have no choice but to continue to drain water from the Yom at full speed.
Phichit irrigation officials are using three weirs to keep water for later use. Each of them can draw between three and four million cubic metres from the river.
However, it is apparent the amount of water is limited while there are large numbers of farmers who rely on the irrigation system, the officials have said.
They suggest that rice farmers change their crops, turning to plants which demand less water, or otherwise dig artesian wells or ponds in their fields that will be their “only way out” for growing rice out of the rainy season.
This of course is easier said than done and will require extensive funding.
Rice farmers in Chai Nat’s Manorom district believe a change to other crops is only a good idea on paper as practically all new plants fail to improve their living conditions. One farmer said that farmers have tried planting maize for use as animal feed and some beans but they were not suitable for the local soil, making it not worth the investment.
Also, he said, there were no markets to guarantee the farmers their produce would be bought. So many families have been forced to grow rice though they have to “risk facing drought and low rice prices”.
The situation is also difficult for farmers in Ang Thong’s Chaiyo district. Many have begun to face some degree of water scarcity as the drought has come early.
(Source: Bangkok Post)