Mr Somkiat didn’t pull any punches. Even his expression was stern to make sure that those who did not understand his words at least understood that his order was to be taken seriously.
He also made it plain that the Phuket Governor will no longer be able to stand aside and wait for everyone else to try to make decisions without seeming to usurp his authority. Instead our Governor now will be held responsible for making sure that local government offices and agencies work together, and he will be responsible for overseeing the plan for water-shortage countermeasures that is drawn up and presented to the ONWR.
It is not difficult to see where that stance came from. The blatant willful ignorance by Phuket’s leading Bangkok-appointed official during the island’s water shortage crisis earlier this year was dumbfounding, when he was still pretty sure it was not a “crisis” even when the Army was rolling in water trucks from as far as Nakhon Sri Thammarat and Songkhla to poor neighbourhoods and high-set areas left high and dry.
Phuket’s leading official was also adamant that no “water rations” were necessary or being implemented even when water pressure had been reduced so much that many commercial and residential areas were left without running water at all.
Mr Somkiat and the ONWR are not to be trifled with. Not only does the office report directly to the Prime Minister’s Office but also Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha himself sits as the chairman of its executive committee.
Phuket’s water situation may not be as critical an issue as the deadly floods in the Northeast in September that killed at least 33 people and left thousands displaced, or the impending drought predicted for the rice-growing heartlands in the North, Northeast and Central Plains when the dry season kicks in after we enter the new year – but the ONWR has finally given the importance of ensuring household water supply in Phuket its rightful place as a key priority. Even at the most cynical, if that level of attention is being given only to preserve Phuket’s image as a tourist destination, so be it – we’ll take it.
Whether we will have water reserves to last the coming dry season we’ll just have to wait and see. A year ago, Somsawat Chaisinsod, Director of Phuket Provincial Irrigation Office, explained to The Phuket News that the Bang Neow Dam reservoir was just less than 45% full.
“We need about 5mn cubic meters – or about 70% of the reservoir’s capacity – by the end of December to cope with the demand during the dry season (December-April),” he said.
“My advice is for people and businesses in the affected areas to start storing water reserves so they can use it for their own needs in the first few months of 2019.” (See story here.)
As of Friday (Nov 1), the Office of National Water Resoures reported that the Bang Wad reservoir in Kathu was 29.55% and that the Bang Neow Dam reservoir in Thalang was just 8.38% full. (See report here.)
Hopefully Graisorn Mahamad, manager of the Phuket office of the Provincial Waterworks Authority (PWA), has done his sums right, and that despite our main reservoirs hovering at threateningly low levels, the water the PWA is sourcing from private reserves is enough without island residents being left at the mercy of entrepreneurial water truck drivers and the private companies that supply them.