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Water Scarcity in Bangkok

In October 2019, the flooded streets in Bangkok had made the headline in every newsstand. Three months later in January 2020, the news has reported on water shortage and salinity of the Chao Phraya River. The tragedy here is the imbalance amount of water input; either too much or too few, for water consumption process throughout the year. The common in this case is the "water" both in quantity and quality aspect of it.

Bangkok is a capital city of around 9 million residents; besides the household consumption of water, the supply must be ready to welcome millions of tourists to the city. Thirty-five million in 2019, which will be significantly less in 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19, has named Bangkok the most visited city in the world, according to MasterCard and followed by Paris (19.10 million), London (19.01 million), Dubai (15.93 million) and Singapore (14.67 million) to conclude the top five most visited cities of the world in 2018.

Deputy Secretary-General Samroeng Sangphuwong said that only 61% or 49,789 million cubic meters, of the total water-carrying capacity, kept in Thailand's nationwide reservoirs. Of those, only 44% is for consumption while there are 14 large dams in Thailand, there are holding less than 30% of combined capacity.

For Bangkok, an enforced regulation to control water usage and appropriate pricing strategy must be instituted. The current cost of water is relatively low and does not reflect the severity of the scarcity problems. The government cannot only rely on national campaigns to raise the awareness of their citizens in order to curve the consumption. An ambitious goal to reduce the usage; currently at 25%, must follow with effective enforcement to make that goal happens.

"Currently, related agencies are adjusting their operations, focusing on supply to areas affected by water shortage, both inside and outside irrigation areas, within one or two months," Samroeng said

Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR), Thailand's command centre for management of the nation's water resources has asked the cabinet in January to approve a budget of 3 billion baht to combat water shortages in vulnerable areas. Primarily, the first portion of budget allocation is for 2,041 short-term projects as a relief measure for expected drought in the following May-June; and the second part is for 1,434 water projects across 54 provinces in Thailand.

However, for the moment, the intrusion of seawater into the Chai Phraya River during the high tide in January has posted one of the biggest threats, as the river is the source of tap water for residents in Bangkok and nearby provinces. ONWR has planned to improve the quality of water by diverting about 500 million cubic metres from the Mae Klong River to the Chao Phraya. The plan is estimated to serve up to 15,000 households. All plans are short-term solutions, but not likely a sustainable long-term one.


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