Thai government sets $240 million budget to combat drought

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attends the plenary session of the 25th ASEAN summit at Myanmar International Convention Centre in Naypyitaw November 12, 2014. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (Reuters)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's cabinet has approved a 7.8 billion baht ($240 million) budget to alleviate drought in the country and tackle "water emergencies", a government spokesman said on Wednesday. Earlier, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had put the budget at 5 billion baht. Thailand is battling drought in eight of its 76 provinces. The irrigation department has warned that the country would suffer its worst drought in more than a decade this year. "Today the cabinet approved a 7.8 billion baht budget to be disbursed for 1,712 projects and to be used for water emergencies," deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd told reporters, adding the money would come from the 2015 budget. The funds would be used to provide mobile water tanks and to install water pumps in affected areas, Prayuth said. According to the Office of Agricultural Economics, drought will cut the off-season crop in top exporter Thailand by more than 30 percent. Off-season rice is grown between November and April after the main crop is harvested. It needs irrigation as there is little rain during that period in many parts of the country. Prayuth said aid for drought-hit areas would focus on the agricultural north and northeast. Thailand will enter its hot season next month. ($1 = 32.5600 baht) (Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Kim Coghill and Alan Raybould)