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Funding sought to keep irrigation systems pumping
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Funding sought to keep irrigation systems pumping
Vientiane Times, 11 March 2010
 
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is finalising a funding
proposal for submission to the central government for consideration
relating to work to ensure irrigation systems can continue to pump
water from the Mekong River.
 
Deputy Director General of the ministry's Planning Department, Mr
Somphanh Chanphengxay, told Vientiane Times the ministry held talks
with the relevant departments yesterday regarding the issue.
 
“The deputy minister asked the relevant sectors to promptly finalise
the proposal for presentation to the government for consideration,” Mr
Somphanh said.
 
Borikhamxay province and Vientiane authorities have already requested
additional funding totalling about 1.8 billion kip to renovate
irrigation systems.
 
The deputy minister also asked officials to continue collecting
information regarding water shortages affecting the agricultural
sector in other provinces.
 
The disbursement of additional funding is based on information
submitted to the government regarding the real situation, Mr Somphanh
said.
 
He said the ministry is requesting additional funds because financing
for situations reulting from extreme weather conditions is not
included in its annual budget.
 
Head of the Vientiane Irrigation Division, Mr Saykham Phaengkhammy,
said the 1.4 billion kip already requested from the government would
go towards seven irrigation pumping stations affected by the falling
water levels.
 
However, another system in Kaoliew village in Sikhottabong district
has encountered similar problems in the last few days and will require
around 270 million kip to ensure it can continue operating. The eight
pumping stations provide water to more than 3,000 hectares of rice
fields.
 
The work to be undertaken includes the excavation of channels to allow
water inflow into pumping stations, relocating water pumps to areas of
deeper water, and increasing the length of some of the systems to
enable them to access more water.
 
Borikhamxay provincial authorities need funding to modify seven
stations in Pakxan and Thaphabath districts that supply water to more
than 1,400 hectares of rice fields.
 
Officials began work to modify the irrigation systems in February,
with initial investment from the private sector.
 
The Mekong River has dropped to its lowest level in several decades,
leading to severe water shortages.
 
The river dropped very quickly in early February, at a rate of about
10 centimetres per day, according to the Vientiane Agriculture and
Forestry Department.
 
Towards the end of February, that rate fell from 10 to 5 centimetres
per day and the department installed pumps on boats in the middle of
the river to ensure adequate water supply to the city.
 
According to the Mekong River Commission, the current level on the
mainstream Mekong River is significantly below average in northern
Laos and Thailand.
 
Levels at mainstream measuring stations at Chiang Saen, Chiang Khan,
Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Nong Khai are below those that occurred
in the low flow season of 1993, which followed the most extreme
regional drought on record in 1992.


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