Thai Water Festivals Continue Despite Drought

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 1:23 PM

Mass water fights are staged to celebrate the traditional New Year despite a third of Thailand's provinces experiencing drought.

Thai Water Festivals Continue Despite Drought

Throughout S E Asia, Buddhist water festivals marking the traditional New Year have got under way.

As Songkran celebrations began in Bangkok, tourists and locals took portion in mass water fights in the streets, armed with high-powered water pistols.

The role of water in the festival is to symbolise the washing far of past misfortune, but this year it comes as the wider region is grappling with the most severe drought seen in decades - leaving thousands with restricted access to water.

In the build-up to this three-day-long holiday, Thai authorities urged revellers to exercise restraint, avoiding the utilize of buckets and hoses out of consideration for those struggling with the drought.

A third of Thailand'south provinces have presently been declared drought catastrophe areas, with those in the north, N E and central regions worst hit.

A no of the Kingdom'south largest reservoirs are presently below thirty percent of their capacity, meaning restrictions have been keep in space on the vol of tap water being released, and a ban in some areas on farmers pumping river water for their crops.

Narong Saithong, a rice farmer from the central Lop Buri province, told Sky News he'd been unable to grow his crop for months.

His rice paddies, normally filled with water and carpeted in green, have been baked dry.

With ten family members to allow for he's looking at other options, but is in serious trouble.

"We've suffered a lot. We can't pay our debts. We're really struggling," he said.

"We're looking for new jobs or at minimum alternative crops to grow instead. But we haven't found one yet."

His situation is one example of that faced by thousands around the country.

Economists have predicted the drought could've a major impact on Thailand'south exports in the coming year, with rice and sugar-cane production badly affected.

Efforts to alleviate some of the hardship have included water truck deliveries to some remote areas by regional irrigation authorities.

Thailand'south Royal Rainmaking airborne unit have also been sent into the skies in an effort to induce rain over reservoirs and major agricultural regions.

Their cloud-seeding operations involve releasing chemicals into existing clouds, in order to encourage them to rise and grow in size, before using ice to encourage rain to fall.

But despite working closely with meteorologists to define the right weather conditions for the flights, the extended dry spell has been frustrating the pilots' efforts.

At the Jiraprawat Royal air base in the drought-hit Nakhon Sawan province, pilot Suchet Pattanapanjakul told Sky News he and his team were desperate to help more.

"It'south so worrying when the weather isn't right for flying ... It'south a huge problem for us, because it means we can't target the right areas for rain. When we're in the sky, we must've clouds in the right positions."

The severity of this year'south drought is thought to be the result of the global El Nino weather phenomenon, whereby warmer sea waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean modify normal temperature and rainfall patterns.

The impact of the drought has been felt in India as well as across S East Asia.

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