PHUKET: Expensive rainmaking flights costing as much as 480,000 baht a day have yet to make an appreciable difference to Phuket’s water supplies. Three aircraft from the Royal Rainmaking Service are currently in Phuket. The two smaller airplanes each incur a cost of 50,000 baht a flight in fuel, chemicals and other costs while the third, larger aircraft costs 60,000 baht a flight. The cost is being met by the Ministry of Agriculture. Despite the threat of imminent water restrictions in Phuket Town, rainmaking flights were suspended for two days for the visit to the island of government ministers from Bangkok on Friday and Saturday. In the past, the rainmaking team has proved effective in fighting fires or generating rain to ensure the survival of crop harvests in a drought. But an island facing a water shortage is a different prospect. As one of the pilots in last year’s rainmaking exercise explained to the Gazette, making rain fall over the catchment area for Phuket’s Bang Wad reservoir is like trying to pour a bucket of water into a bottle with a narrow neck. Seeding this year began on June 29 but the increase in the reservoir of 0.15 million cubic meters so far made little difference, said an official from the Phuket Provincial Irrigation Office (PPIO). The PPIO was planning to try to stave off water restrictions by pumping water from Klong Bang Yai to Bangwad reservoir, the official added. Sompong Phanthong, Deputy Chief of the Phuket Agriculture and Cooperatives Office (PACO), said, “This year [the water shortage] is worse than in previous years. The two areas where we need rain are over Bang Wad and over the tin mines [converted to reservoirs].
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