The governor of Banteay Meanchey yesterday warned of potentially dire water shortages in the province and said that authorities will begin constructing a small dam on the Serei Sophon River to keep the water from escaping.
Pumping from other rivers, lakes and reservoirs will also be required to meet the province’s need towards the end of the dry season, Governor Kor Sum Sarith said in a telephone interview. He added that residents must do everything they can to conserve water.
“Right now, the province has some water for people to use. But if we don’t take action now, it will be a problem [later on] in the dry season,” he said.
The cost of the dam and other water conservation measures wasn’t immediately available yesterday.
Bun Hean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, acknowledged that while rainfall has given some provinces enough water, others, especially low-lying provinces, continue to struggle with low reservoirs. The Mekong River is 2 metres lower than it should be at this time of year, he said.
The most at-risk provinces include Prey Veng, Takeo, Svay Rieng, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey, he added.
In November, Chan Yutha, a spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources said the government was using 600,000 litres of fuel set in reserve to run 300 pumps to distribute water in hard-hit areas.
Hean said yesterday that most of the pumped water will come from the Tonle Sap lake. He waved off shortage concerns, saying that the government had plenty of resources.
However, Chan Sophal, an independent agriculture economist, said that while money may not be a problem due to low oil prices, lack of rain will limit the government’s options.
“The government can pump water to rescue the crops, but if there is no water source to pump, then nothing much can be done,” he said. “The shortage usually happens in March or April.”
In recent years, rural residents have been increasingly relying on reservoirs for irrigation, making them more vulnerable to extreme weather, according to Sophal.
Climate change along with a severe El Niño pattern that will last into 2016, have been blamed for water shortages throughout the Kingdom, according to Ian Thomas, an adviser with the Mekong River Commission.
Sophal said that farmers in the at-risk areas might want to hold off on trying to grow dry season rice because they stand a good chance of losing their investment.
The government has no means to compensate farmers who have lost their crops.