Drought will worsen as temperature rises to 43C
* Published: 4/03/2010 at 12:00 AM
* Newspaper section: News
A severe drought is beginning to take its toll on parts of the country as temperatures are expected to hit 43C this summer.
Cargo barges can no longer ply the Mekong River due to a drastic drop in water levels, and farmers in some areas have begun to fight among themselves over water supplies.
The weather bureau predicts the highest temperature this year to reach 43C.
The Chiang Rai Customs Office said river freight to and from China would come to a halt because the Mekong River had become too shallow.
The goods are now transported overland along the 2,000km-long R3A route which links Thailand with Xishuangbanna prefecture in Yunnan province of southern China via Laos.
The office said the route was busy with the number of trailer trucks carrying cargo containers jumping to 50 a day, from 50 a month a few months ago.
Appointed senator Prasarn Maruekapitak, head of the subcommittee working on the development of the Mekong basin, said the water levels in the Mekong measured in Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai had dropped by 1.5m between Jan 24 and Feb 23.
The senator quoted the Chinese media as reporting the present water level of the river was the lowest in 50 years.
He said other reports blamed China for stocking up water in its dams built upstream.
"No matter what has caused this problem, people are suffering," Mr Prasarn said.
"The government should consider negotiating with China to release more water."
In Phrae, about 100 farmers in Muang district yesterday lodged a complaint with the provincial administration about the serious water shortage.
They claimed the shortage was caused because people living upstream in Song district had stopped releasing water.
The farmers gathered at the provincial city hall and called for government intervention in the problem.
They said their soybean farms had wilted because there was not enough water.
In Phitsanulok, rice farmers in Phrom Phiram district sought the protection of police while they tried to open a sluice gate to release water to their farms.
The farmers claimed "thugs" had closed the gate so they could siphon off water to be sold to other farmers.
After reopening the sluice gate on Wednesday, the farmers have assigned teams of security guards to watch the gate around the clock.
Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department said temperatures were expected to continue to rise over the next two months.
Normally, the average highest temperatures at this time of year is between 34C and 35C.
The temperature has recently risen as high as 38C to 39C.
Prepare yourself for electric power brown outs and water shortages.