Drought Risk Reduction in Thailand: Actions and Issues

Commissioned Report

Drought is a serious problem in Thailand. Over 8.7 million hectares – majority of them in the northeast region– are frequently affected by drought. There were nine severe droughts in the period of 1989-2011 (DWR, 2016). In 2013, damages from drought was estimated over 2.5 billion Bhat (~81 million USD). Although long term observation by Thai Meteorological Department (TMD) has not shown significant changes in average annual rainfall (Source: Interview with officials at TMD), number of rainy days in Thailand has significantly decreased by 0.99 day per decade while daily rainfall intensity increased during 1955-2014 (UNFCCC, 2015). National projections indicate precipitation level is expected to decline even further in arid inland areas (UNFCCC, 2015). Expansion of drought affected areas is also caused by human factors. Land use change due to urbanization, deforestation, plantation and increase in agricultural areas is responsible for loss in water retention capacity. For instance, agricultural land in Thailand has grown from 15.9 million hectares in 1983 to over 18 million hectares in 2008, while average land holding per farmer has decreased from 3.5 hectares to 2.3 hectares in the same period due to the increase in farm population (NSO, 2012). On the other hand, inadequate number of water storage facilities, such as reservoirs, is limiting the access to water for agricultural use during the periods of drought. For instance by 2012, the drought-prone northeast region, which is also the largest agricultural region in Thailand, had only less than 12% of storage capacity of the total water reservoirs in Thailand (NSO, 2012). While the major impacts of drought are loss of agriculture production, especially, in rainfed areas, other impact are increase in forest fire, groundwater depletion and seawater intrusion in coastal rivers.