Central Thailand is experiencing its worst drought for 50 years. There are widespread failures of?
CU Dried out crops in Lop Buri province, Thailand. (2 shots)
SV Young boy inspecting crop.
CU Dried out maize.
SV PAN Dried out crops on cracked land.
SV People working in paddy fields. (3 shots)
SV Irrigation pipe
GV PAN Dried out land.
SV PAN Cow
SV PAN Family leading buffalos to market.
SV Children carrying water pails on their backs. (2 shots)
SV Woman and child. PAN TO dried out dam.
SV Water being pumped into wells from water tank.
SV Woman holding sick children.
CU Water being poured into well. (2 shots)
SV Water being poured into bucket from tanker.
STARCK: "In a normal year Central Thailand has four monsoons. This year there has been only one. In fact they have had no rain here in Lop Buri province since July. It's the most severe drought in living memory and in the worst hit areas 80 per cent of the crops have withered and died.
When the usual wet season didn't materialise provincial government experimented with cloud seeding, but the humidity wasn't there, and today the cracked earth is a depressing reminder of an experiment which produced nothing in the way of worthwhile rainfall.
In Lop Buri Province the rice they have managed to harvest is of a pale and sickly appearance. The workers in the paddy fields complain that officials in Bangkok appeared not to understand how serious the situation was when the monsoons failed to arrive.
Eventually an emergency irrigation programme was begun but it came far too late to save most of their crops. Maybe those government officials just couldn't believe that this province, one of the most fertile in Thailand, could actually be devastated by drought.
People are being forced to sell their most precious possessions. This family group was headed for the nearest town, where someone perhaps could be persuaded to buy the buffalo.
The villages of Central Thailand are populated today, almost entirely by children and women. Most of the men, especially the younger ones have left their homes to search for employment.
To give you an idea of how severe the drought is, this dam has dried up for the first time anyone in the village can remember. The few pools of water which do remain are polluted and undrinkable, so water tankers have been sent up country from Bangkok. On paper, the relief programme looks impressive. A quarter of a million litres of water everyday is being delivered to the outlying villages. But in reality that's not enough. The Governor of Lop Buri has now appealed for military help. He wants a fleet of army tankers assigned to his province, which now faces its traditional dry season over the next five months."
Initials VS 16.00
REPORTER: NIGEL STARCK
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Central Thailand is experiencing its worst drought for 50 years. There are widespread failures of rice and maize crops, and in some district 80 per cent of the harvest has been lost. In Lop Buri province, many villages are being kept alive with water brought by road tankers from the cities. Nigel Starck of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been visiting the province. Here's his report.