Is it time for John's yearly rant? (would 3.5cm of rain make that much difference?)
...and if something is repeated often enough on TV it can be believed without question, right?
Long term readers (those that haven't closed the browser already) will recognise the precursors to one of my customary rants, the one about the weather and the press - looking around, two months into the dry season I see dusty roads and low rivers, I see dry season - the fourth estate, the river port authorities (who have access to the information below) see a drought.
The story that got my blood boiling (but failed to warm my feet in this office above the ele camp) was about the level of the Mekong, something that can, thanks to the measuring station in Chiang Saen, be easily proven or re-butted.
The graph above is from the Mekong River Commission's website for Chiang Saen - you can get the full details by clicking on it - and as it is updated daily, if you are reading this June or July the situation may be an whole lot worse, but at the time of writing, at the time the Port Authorities and farmers are claiming drought it shows as clearly as possible that while the water level's low it is not close to 2004 (the green line), the year I started drinking my beer on the banks, or the driest year on record 1993 (the light blue line) - in fact it is all pretty normal for the dry season.
So, what has changed?
In 2003 & 2004 the ships stopped running in the dry season, the river was too low, had always been too low, at that time of year - since then, after a bit of reef blasting and a few wet years the sailors were able to run year round, more people bought boats and started running, suddenly a viable business when you can trade the twelve-month - it rained off and on all last wet season, trade continued, and suddenly that's where the target is.
Like the desert rancher who only remembers ocotillo flowers and plentiful grass in the year when it rained, treating the natural arid conditions as an aberration, the Port Authorities are ready to treat any blockage in shipping as a natural disaster.
The claims of drought are reinforced by the fact that we are having a dry spell, it hasn't rained in the first two months of the year and the farmers are running out of water - I have previously bored you (ad-nauseum, ad-infinitum, I know) with my theory that the reservoirs running dry has more to do with land use changes and greater population density (not to mention last year's coordinated, laudable, Government scheme to provide piped and treated water to villages that have hitherto survived on well water) than a change in the weather patterns.
However, the average (since '03) year-to-date rainfall, including the 'good years' when trade continued, is 3.5cm - enough to, perhaps, top up a dam or two but not enough to help the shipping, moreover, the rains finished late this year and our grassland pond - not subject to any water use or irrigation - that has always been our venue for Lynchee's Feb. 19th birthday party is, well, still a pond - this was filled by last year's late floods, caused more by rainfall upstream on the Mekong than rainfall here - for farmers, perhaps it is time to concentrate more on catching the water that comes in flood time than relying on rain to fall unseasonably, perhaps follow HM the King's sufficiency principles and stop trying to grow a second crop in the dry season.
For boatmen, perhaps time to admit that the river has never been guaranteably navigable year round (in fact only through blasting is it navigable at all) and to factor natural weather patterns into your thinking.
Ditto for the port authorities and perhaps to reflect that there may be other factors such as the new road to China and the fact that no-one has any money anymore also contributing to the drop in the numbers of chemically preserved apples coming down the river and fridges and luxury cars going up.
For the press, time to research stories a little rather than print stock photos of a dry riverbed to coincide with this annual cry of drought.
For me, time to shut up and go to work!
|Low flow in Mekong River affects water transport|
CHIANG RAI, Feb 5 (TNA) – Water level in the Mekong River in the northern province of Chiang Rai was way below normal even though summer has not yet begun, affecting water transport, according to a border official.
Chiang Saen Customs House chief Winai Chinthongprasert said Chiang Rai is expected to face severe drought conditions as seen from the water level in the Mekong River which had decreased dramatically and a summer which might came sooner than in previous years.
"As the water level was below sandbars and rocks, cargo ships transporting goods between Thailand and China face difficulty in navigating and docking at Chiang Saen, the main port of the province. Ships have been forced to reduce cargo loads by half to avoid running aground", Mr. Winai said.
The Chiang Sean Customs House chief added that goods imported via Chiang Saen port have fallen to Bt65 million in January, down 37 per cent compared to same period last year, which was valued at Bt102 million. Exports also dropped to Bt1.8 billion, from Bt2.5 billion last year.
If a drought is prolonged, he said, the overall income at Chiang Sean Customs House will also drop. (TNA)