An article by Nirmal Ghosh, The Straits Times.

ACROSS Indochina, from Myanmar to Vietnam, as the dry season sets in, each country is once again grappling with forest fires, mostly set in order to clear land.

But in Thailand, scientists warn that already dry conditions are being made worse by over-cultivation of rice, which is sucking up what little water is left.

“It is more a question of changing usage behaviour (than of a shortage of water)”, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi told reporters in Chiang Mai yesterday.

“For example, farmers are rushing to grow second and third crops for fear of drought.”

He said that even though water volumes at reservoirs were on a par with levels seen at this time last year, demand had increased – which could make it necessary to ration water in the coming months.

On Wednesday, air quality in two Thai provinces in the north, Lampang and Phrae, exceeded safety limits.

Yesterday, 15 provinces, mostly in northern, north-eastern and central Thailand, were declared drought-hit and eligible for emergency funding.

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