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Drought threatens Thai Map Ta Phut industrial estate

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 4 May 2012 09:32 GMT
Author: Reuters
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BANGKOK, May 4 (Reuters) - Thailand's biggest industrial complex, Map Ta Phut, escaped the flooding that devastated other estates last year but its factories could soon suffer the opposite problem, a shortage of water, as the eastern region is threatened with drought.

A local reservoir is only half-full, worrying the 147 businesses on Map Ta Phut, although officials say there is no immediate problem with water supply and they are looking at ways to address any shortage.

The director of the estate, Pratheep Aeng-Chuan, said estate officials would meet relevant agencies including the Royal Irrigation Department and the provincial Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation on May 14 to discuss the situation.

"Currently we are coordinating with the Meteorological Department to provide information regarding water levels and climate forecasts for the coming three to four months, which may have a significant impact on water collection within the reservoir," Pratheep told Reuters.

He said the authorities would look at various measures to tackle any problems that arose, including alternative water sources and creating artificial rain over the reservoir.

The region suffered its worst drought in 30 years in 2005, when water levels in the reservoir receded to less than 20 percent.

However, Pratheep insisted the situation was nowhere near as serious yet and that businesses were operating as normal.

"There hasn't been any impact on the businesses operating here yet ... There is a sufficient amount of water production in the area for usage. No orders for water supplies from other sources have been placed yet," he said.

The reservoir contained 139.47 million cubic metres of water, whereas 160 million was generally considered necessary to ensure normal supply, East Water Resources Development and Management, which oversees supplies to the industrial sector in the region, said in a note on Friday.

Other areas of Thailand are suffering from a heat wave. The maximum daily temperature in Bangkok in April averaged 40.1 Celsius (104.2 Fahrenheit), the highest in 30 years.

Manufacturing in Thailand has still not recovered from last year's flooding. Seven big industrial estates had to close in October and the Industry Ministry says a quarter of the factories have still not reopened.

Although Map Ta Phut was spared the flooding, it has seen other disruption in recent years. Construction work on dozens of new plants was suspended for almost a year in 2009/2010 because of health and environmental complaints pursued through the courts by activists. (Reporting by Sinsiri Tiwutanond; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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