The Rainmakers

By | April 17, 2015

Royal Thai Air Force jets have been called in an attempt to beat the heat and provide water for people and plants alike in the dry Northeast.

RTAF chief Air Chief Marshal Chalit Pukbhasuk presided at a ceremony Friday assigning aircraft to be used in the artificial rainmaking operation to counter Thailand’s seasonal drought on Friday.

Drought in Thailand’s northeastern region is likely to become worse before it gets better when the annual rains arrive to help the Korat Plateau, Thailand’s largest and poorest region.

ACM Chalit said 15 aircraft and 400 personnel from RTAF wings at three airbases have been dispatched to join cloud-seeding operations in areas assigned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

The air force didn’t set a timeframe for the mission as it depends on the situation on the ground, and in the air, as the needs change from area to area.

RTAF is using its Alpha jet aircraft in its artificial rainmaking operations. Its tail section has ample room to accommodate sizable chemical loads sufficient for the cloud-seeding operations.

Water has been distributed to some drought-affected areas to solve the problem on a temporary basis.

Local authorities in Yasothon have distributed drinking water to thirsty villagers. It is estimated that the number of afflicted local residents has now surpassed 14,000 people.

In Khu Muang district, eucalyptus growers can sell fewer eucalyptus sprouts as farmers face an expanding drought and dare not to grow eucalyptus trees. The quick-growing cash-crop species is favoured for commercial forestry, but the trees ‘drink up’ large volumes of water that would otherwise be available for vegetable and fruit gardens, small-scale paddy irrigation, and household use.

In Kalasin, villagers living outside the specially-served royal irrigation system areas have also been affected by the drought, despite their proximity to adequately-served royal projects. Over 80,000 paddy fields, as well as cassava and sugar cane plantation are affected by the continuing water shortage .

Local authoriities are dispatching survey teams to assess damage that can be alleviated by urgent assistance.