Thai government announces water-management plan for 2022

The government on Friday announced its water-management plan for 2022, including more than 11,000 projects from 23 public agencies.

The country experienced one of the worst droughts in 40 years during the summer season in 2020, while severe floods at the end of the year in the south of the country left at least eight districts of Yala province under water well into January.

For 2022, the Office of the National Water Resources had approved in principle 11,524 projects from 23 agencies in nine ministries, its Secretary-General Somkiat Prachamwong said Friday.

He did not provide the budget for 2022 as it is still under discussion, but the numbers would be presented to the Bureau of the Budget on January 15, he said.

For 2021, the government is planning to spend more than 115.44 billion baht on 26,810 water management projects.

In 2020, the government spent 56.71 billion baht from the annual fiscal budget on 3,621 water management projects, and 31.29 billion baht from the emergency central budget on 31,054 projects to combat drought and flooding.   

The water-management budget amounted to 52.63, 54.2, 60.36, and 62.83 billion baht in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 respectively. 

Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and chair of the national water committee, told related agencies Friday to budget wisely as the government is already spending heavily to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mekong River levels fall as China services dam

The water levels along the Mekong River will fall to about 1.20 metres lower than normal in the period from January 5 to January 24 due to power grid maintenance in China, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) said on Wednesday.

The MRC said outflow from Jinghong hydropower station in China’s Yunnan province will be reduced, affecting levels in Thailand, Lao PDR, and Cambodia.

Outflow from the station will gradually restored to its normal level on January 25, China’s Ministry of Water Resources told the commission.

For Thailand, the water level had fallen about 2 metres in Chiang Saen, the country’s first monitoring station located approximately 300 kilometres away from Jinghong, between January 2 and January 4. The level is expected to slightly increase by 0.05 metres by January 11, the commission said.

The stretches from Vientiane to Paksane in Lao, including Nongkhai of Thailand, will experience a drop of 0.22–0.35 meters in their water levels between January 7 and January 11. For the mainstream from Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan and Khong Chiam to Lao’s Thakhek, Savannakhet and Pakse, the water levels will fall slightly less between 0.03 and 0.15 meters from January 8 and January 11, it added.

“Navigation activities on the Mekong River, especially around the areas close to Jinghong, may be affected more than the other places during this period,” said Dr Lam Hung Son, Head of the MRC Regional Flood and Drought Management Centre. “Some local livelihood activities such as river weed harvesting and fishing may also be affected.”

Under an agreement between China and the MRC, China pledged to notify MRC’s member countries of “any abnormal rise or fall in water level or discharge” and information on other factors that might lead to sudden floods in the region.

On December 15, the United States launched a new Mekong Dam Monitor project to help countries acurately measure water resources along the Mekong River.

The project uses open-source remote sensing, satellite imagery, and geographic information system (GIS) analysis to provide real-time reporting of climate conditions, estimated river flows, and reservoir operation conditions in the river. The tool is publicly available.

China’s hydropower installations on the Mekong have been criticized by NGOs in the region for causing drought in the region.

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