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Officials pumping water into drought-affected rice fields

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More than 10,000ha of rice fields in Battambang province are affected by drought. Hong Menea

Officials pumping water into drought-affected rice fields

Provincial authorities and agriculture officials are working together to pump water into rice fields as thousands of hectares in eight provinces are affected by drought. Concern over possible water shortage for daily use also remains.

National Committee for Disaster Management spokesman Keo Vy told The Post on Monday that the drought is taking its toll on more than 10,000ha of rice fields in Battambang and more than 1,000ha in Kampong Cham.

He said Prey Veng, Kandal, Takeo, Banteay Meanchey, Tbong Khmum, and Kampong Chhnang provinces have also been affected, although he had not received any report on damage to rice crops.

However, Vy assured that water sources such as lakes, canals, creeks, and big and small irrigation systems, still contained water and were not dry.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology had decided to release the water for citizens and the authorities had pumped it into the rice fields.

“We released water from the Kamping Puoy Reservoir to save more than 10,000ha of rice crops in Thma Koul district, in Battambang province.

“According to the weather forecast, there may be no early rains. If there are none, it will cause more challenges. We will [use] water from the reservoirs for daily consumption and to grow crops.

“[But] we will use it economically to prepare for the upcoming dry season and to ensure the water shortage of 2016 doesn’t happen again,” he said.

That year, more than two million people across the country experienced water shortages due to El Nino. At the time, authorities were forced to transport water from other places to supply the water-deprived areas.

Vy recalled that this year, rice fields had been thrice affected by drought where soaring temperatures had been experienced due to the delayed arrival and early departure of the monsoon rains, along with insufficient rainfall.

He said if El Nino ends next year, the country may see early rains from mid-January to February that could help ease the effects of the drought.

Battambang provincial Department of Agriculture director Chhim Vichara said on Monday that 11,400ha of wet-season rice crops in Thma Koul district had been affected by the drought, but officials from the provincial administration and the district, along with agricultural department officials, had gradually addressed it late last week.

The officials reportedly exported water from the Kamping Puoy Reservoir in Banan district and the river in Bavel district.

Vy said this normally happened every year at the end of the rainy season. Water from rivers, lakes, and irrigation systems, he said, had been stored to prepare for the shortage.

If the drought worsens, the water would be used by December. However, if no rainfall occurs in January, the country could experience a water crisis, he stressed.

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