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Asia Minute: Thailand’s Baking Drought

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As brush fires continue to devastate parts of Australia, dry weather is creating trouble in another part of the Asia Pacific. Parts of Thailand are suffering through their worst drought in nearly 40 years.

Thailand’s Prime Minister is urging residents to cut back on their use of water — as a baking drought continues to punish parts of the country.

Late Tuesday, the government said nearly 20% of the country is now suffering from drought—mostly in northern and central provinces. The cabinet agreed to spend about a hundred million dollars to drill and extract ground water with special pipes.

Thailand is only about two months into its usual dry season, and reservoir levels are already low.

Dry weather usually lasts through April — although authorities are warning that this year it could linger until June. That’s having an impact on tap water — elderly people are being advised not to drink it because salt has leached into it due to a lack of rain.

And there are broader impacts.

The director of Thailand’s Office of National Water Resources says the Mekong River will experience near record low levels this year because of the lingering drought. He’s also worried the long dry season could lead to villagers in some provinces fighting over water.

The drought and low levels of the Mekong River will also hit neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

Those northern and central parts of Thailand include some of the country’s richest farm land – and concerns also extend to food supplies later in the year.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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