Vital rice crops wither in Southeast Asia – Water rationing enforced in almost a third of Thailand – ‘This year is worse than any other’
BANG PLA MA, Thailand, 9 July 2015 (AFP) – Ms Ranong Rachasing would normally be in her fields at this time of the year, toiling in ankle-deep water to make her rice paddies bloom through knowledge honed by years of cultivating Thailand's most celebrated export.
Now the wizened 57-year-old's fields lie fallow, baking under a blazing summer sun.
"This year is worse than any other. There has been no rain, so there is no water. It is the most severe drought I've ever seen," she said while standing in a cracked field in Bang Pla Ma district, Suphanburi province, a two-hour drive north of Bangkok.
Thailand's vital rice belt is being battered by one of the worst droughts in living memory with the prospect of a dismal main harvest.
Water levels in some of the major reservoirs are at their lowest levels in 20 years, prompting the ruling junta to call on farmers in the Chao Praya river basin to delay sowing crops.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has also ordered officials to clear irrigation channels, dig more ground wells and employ cloud-seeding technology to create artificial rainfall. But the wet season has yet to arrive in earnest. [more]
Thailand’s Chao Phraya river – which supplies drinking water to Bangkok – is turning salty as low flows allow the sea to flood upstream.
Nevertheless every household in the capital has been urged to store at least 60 liters of drinking water in case the worst happens.
A third of the country has water rationing – with many areas declared drought disaster zones.
26 July 2015 (VietNamNet Bridge) – At the same time these storms and floods are wreaking havoc on the country’s infrastructure and economy as they devastate dikes, canals, livestock, and thousands of hectares of crops annually.
"We have to quicken our actions on mitigation, reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and adaptation," said Hoang Van Thang, deputy minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) at a recent conference in Hanoi.
Many have often talked about Vietnam becoming a ‘food bowl’ for Asia, but climate change is a major threat to food security and complicates productivity of a variety of different plants, Thang said.
Most notably, rice output will be reduced by 405.8 kilo per hectare due to the impact of climate change by 2030 and a whopping 716.6 kilo per hectare by 2050 if drastic measures on seeds and cultivation methods are not undertaken.
Over recent years, greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural industry have spiked and in response the government is working with a range of industries and companies on a number of adaptation strategies aimed at reducing them by 20% through 2020.
Vietnam faces more variability in rainfall, prolonged droughts and a greater incidence of extreme weather events Thang said, adding that farmers and poor people are most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.
Jong Ha Bae, chief representative of the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Vietnam in turn said Vietnam is now better placed to meet the challenges brought about by climate change following a three-year Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) program.
The three year European Commission funded CSA project obtained remarkable results as a result of close collaboration with MARD, research institutes, local experts and provincial authorities.
The project, which closed last month, was a complicated and costly project that encouraged farmers to abandon or lessen reliance on methods that increase greenhouse gas emissions and transition to alternative more environmentally friendly methods.
Some analyses have shown that the CSA project will help reduce methane emissions (CH4) in Vietnam by 25%-30% and increase rice productivity by 3-5% by 2020.
For her part, the Director of the Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute reported that untreated animal manure is contaminating Vietnam’s water supply.
A typical industrial livestock farm collects urine and manure in large cesspools and they commonly leak the Director said.
Full of ammonia, phosphorus, nitrogen, and potentially drug resistant bacteria, leakage seeps into waterways and groundwater, causing high chemical oxygen demand (COD – the main measure of organic compounds in water) and eutrophication.
According to the director, a project for constructing and operating biogas tanks and converting the urine and manure to gas used for cooking to reduce this water pollution is proving quite effective. [more]