Water in Crisis - Thailand

Sahisna Suwal, Guest Writer

The Kingdom of Thailand is located in Southeastern region of Asia with a population of over 68 million people and covers a land area of 513,115 square kilometers. There are four main geographical regions in the country: the North, the Central Plains, the Northeast, and the South. There are a total of 25 river basins in the country and Thailand's annual rainfall is around 1700 mm. Like other Asian countries, increasing population, urbanization, agricultural and industrial expansion is impacting the water quality of various water sources. Pollutants from human activities also contribute to the degradation of the water quality. The severe flooding in the rainy season and extreme drought in the dry season could become two major sources of Thailand's water crisis.

The primary sources for drinking water for many Thai citizens are from surface and ground water sources. Untreated domestic sewage, industrial wastewater and solid hazardous wastes have increased in the surface water bodies. It is reported that one third of the surface water is of poor quality in Thailand. The quality of surface water does vary across the four regions of the country but tests show that surface water in the Northern Central and Southern regions are the poorest quality. The largest source of groundwater is in the Lower Central plain surrounding Bangkok and is used to meet the region's water demands. Agricultural run-off pollutants, aquaculture and sewage are polluting the groundwater that is available. In addition, there isn't a clear policy in extracting groundwater beyond sustainable yield levels so there is over-exploitation of groundwater extraction rates.

Thailand's changing climate patterns has led to instability and challenges to the people and the infrastructure. Drought is being caused by irregular rainfall and has become a significant issue in Thailand in the recent years. The Central Plain has no large water reservoirs of their own and must rely on dams in the country's lower Northern region for water. Due to the long periods of droughts each year this has led to a decrease in the amount of water flowing into the dams. The long durations of these droughts are also impacting the production of rice. Thailand is the world's largest rice exporter and the agricultural sector takes up 70% of the nation's total water supply. This has become an emerging problem because farmers have expanded farming outside of irrigated zones. Many farmers also do not conserve water and have failed to plan crop production efficiently. On the other hand, Thailand also faces a flooding crisis, with many regions facing lengthy heavy rainfall. This has led to agriculture and livestock damage along with effects on people's health.

Water scarcity is a global threat that is estimated to hit Thailand hard by 2025. The country must develop a long-term plan to manage these challenges. Effective water management needs to be implemented in Thailand, especially in effectively dealing with flood and drought problems.

Children often bear the burden of walking miles each day to find water in streams and ponds. Sickness and the time lost fetching it robs entire communities of their futures.

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