Cloud-seeding operations increased to ease drought in the Northeast

The Department of Rain-making and Agricultural Aviation has stepped up cloud-seeding efforts to ease drought in Thailand’s northeastern region and to replenish the region’s eight major and 11 medium-sized reservoirs, where water levels have dropped drastically.

Mr. Surasee Kittimonthon, the department’s director-general, said Wednesday that rain-making units, based in the northeastern provinces of Surin, Ubon Ratchathani and Nakhon Ratchasima, have been conducting cloud-seeding flights for quite some time now and have succeeded in producing rainfall that has saved rice, tapioca, sugarcane and other crops in a vast tract of dry land in the Northeast.

Meanwhile, water levels in the eight major reservoirs, namely Ubonrat, Huay Luang, Lam Nang Rong, Lammoon Chi, Lam Plai Mat, Lam Sae, Lam Pao and Lam Phra Ploeng, have increased slightly, he said, adding that the rain-making effort would continue unabated.

Earlier, Assistant Professor Thanawat Pholvichai, director of Economic and Business Forecast Centre of the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce, expressed concern that the current drought might cause damage to crops estimated at over 10 billion baht, although government agencies have insisted that the drought situation this year is not serious and still manageable.

He said authorities might not want people to panic over the water shortage situation, but he noted that drought in the middle of a wet season is very unusual.

Thanawat said it was still too early to assess the damage to the industrial and tourism sectors from the current drought, but his initial estimate of the damage is between 5-10 billion baht.

The Kasikorn Thai Research Centre, meanwhile, estimated crop damage of at least 15 billion baht, mainly rice, or 0.1% of GDP, based on the price rises for rice this year which have climbed an average of 8.4%.

“Although the price of paddy has increased, the question is whether farmers have the rice to sell” said Kasikorn Thai Research Centre.

The main rice crop this year is likely to be the hardest hit by drought, especially in the Northeast, where 90% of the rice fields are rain-fed without access to irrigation systems. The region’s rice yield accounts for half of the country’s main crop output.

From 2008 to 2018, Thai governments spent about 20 billion baht a year to help farmers through subsidies and incentives to shift to crops which consume less water.



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