Massive Droughts In Thailand Reveal A Long-Lost Temple

A family prays near the ruins of a headless Buddha statue that has resurfaced in a dried-up dam due to drought in Lopburi, Thailand, August 1, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

A long-lost temple has reemerged from the watery depths of a dam reservoir in Thailand, drawing in thousands of curious onlookers, tourists, and Buddhist monks. 

The Buddhist temple of Wat Nong Bua Yai was a central part of community life in villages of Lopburi province in Central Thailand until the land was flooded some 20 years ago during construction of the dam. Now, the reservoir waters have receded to reveal a number of the temple’s former structures and a 4-meter (13-foot) tall headless statue of Buddha that sits around a bunch of dead stranded fish, as Reuters news agency reports.

“The temple is normally covered by water. In the rainy season you don’t see anything,” Somchai Ornchawiang, a 67-year-old visitor, told Reuters

“When I was young, I always came to meet friends at the elephant sculptures in front of the main building to play there,” added Yotin Lopnikorn, headman of the Nong Bua village that used to be near the temple. “This is the second time I have seen this temple in this condition.”

Unfortunately, the amazing spectacle is not a good omen. Parts of Thailand have been gripped by the worst drought in a decade this summer. While this is primarily due to less rainfall during the rainy season, the closure of dams in southern China has also led to less water entering the lower Mekong basin, which covers much of Southeast Asia, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

The dam’s main purpose is to irrigate more than 1.3 million acres (526,000 hectares) of land in four provinces so farmers can flood their rice paddies and farmland. In the northeast of the country, local residents have complained about their taps running dry and a lack of water in their local rice paddy fields. 

The situation in Thailand has become so severe, the national government has asked China, Laos, and Myanmar to release water into their rivers to help relieve the drought conditions downstream in Thailand. Authorities have also been toying with the idea of using cloud seeding to bring rainfall. Luckily, rain is slowly but surely on its way. However, with water levels of the dam at less than 3 percent of full capacity, the downpour can't come soon enough. 

Droughts often have a habit of revealing structures that have been lost to dam waters. In 2017, record-breaking low rainfall and blazing temperatures in Europe parched large swathes of land in northern Europe, revealing the so-called "German Atlantis", and the remains of a 3,500-year-old palace was revealed earlier this year in Iraq after a reservoir retreated.  

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