Thailand’s prime minister is telling farmers to stop using water in agriculture to save it for public consumption, as the capital remains spared from one of the worst droughts in decades.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Wednesday that farmers should wait for rain as the government shifts its focus during the drought from agriculture to daily use.
“We have to help people to survive first. First we tried to sustain both livelihood and agriculture. When we couldn’t help the agriculture, we have to admit it, because people are more important,” Prayuth told reporters. “I feel sorry for the farmers, but there’s really nothing we can do.”
Prayuth said military personnel were sent to stop farmers from diverting water released from dams for their farmland.
Authorities earlier asked farmers to hold off on planting rice, but many had already begun growing their crops.
Authorities have promised they will be compensated once the drought passes. On Monday, Thailand approved loans of up to 60 billion baht ($1.77 billion) to support farmers affected by drought.
Tap water ran out in hundreds of thousands of homes earlier this week. It was later restored, though the situation remains tenuous with barely enough water being released from dams to supply Bangkok.
The Metropolitan Waterworks Authority said Bangkok has not been affected by the drought although it warned that tap water might be saltier than usual, but not to the level people could taste it.
Despite being well into rainy season, rainfall has been light in many parts of Thailand with many of the dams reportedly beginning to run dry.
Numerous reports have emerged this month of roads collapsing in drought-hit areas, often because of canals being emptied of their water.
One resident in Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand reported that the household well had run dry, the first time this had occurred since the house was built 20 years ago.
Additional reporting from Associated Press