Regional mediators seeking to peacefully roll back a military coup in Burkina Faso said they negotiated a draft deal on Sunday to end the crisis though they failed to secure the immediate restoration of civilian rule.

The announcement by Senegal’s President Macky Sall at a news conference came after a day fraught with tensions that began with an attack by pro-coup demonstrators and elite presidential guard soldiers on the hotel hosting the talks.

It remained to be seen whether the unsigned agreement would be accepted by either the coup leaders, who took the interim president, prime minister and several ministers hostage on Wednesday, or their opponents in a transitional government.

A night-time curfew remained in place on Sunday.

The coup came weeks before an Oct. 11 vote meant to mark a return to democracy after demonstrators toppled President Blaise Compaore last year as he attempted to extend his 27-year rule.

The uprising became a beacon for democratic aspirations in Africa at a time when veteran rulers from Rwanda to Congo Republic are seeking to scrap term limits.

Under the proposal announced by Sall, who is the current chairman of the West African block ECOWAS, the date of the polls could be pushed back to as late as Nov. 22.

In exchange for returning power to the civilian transitional authority, former Compaore right-hand man General Gilbert Diendere and his presidential guard would receive an amnesty for acts committed during the putsch.

President Michel Kafando would be restored as head of the transitional government, though the body’s military members would be excluded, a move likely aimed at eliminating Prime Minister Isaac Zida, seen as Diendere’s chief opponent.

The deal also calls for the reinstatement of candidates with close links to Compaore, who were excluded from running in the polls under a law passed by the transitional authorities.

Their exclusion from the election along with concerns that the transitional government was preparing to disband the presidential guard were among justifications given by Diendere for staging the coup.


Sall, who spent two days in the capital Ouagadougou on the mediation mission, said he planned to submit the proposal to a summit of heads of state in Nigeria on Tuesday.

Before he announced the plan, Francois Hollande, president of Burkina Faso’s former colonial master France, issued a warning against rejecting the mediation.

“There are discussions taking place as we speak and France backs the African mediations. I address a strong warning to those who would be tempted to oppose them”, he said during a state visit to Morocco.

However, there were immediate indications that the ECOWAS proposal might struggle to gain support among the rival Burkinabe groups.

In his own proposal submitted to mediators late on Saturday and seen by Reuters, Diendere put his own name forward to head a new post-coup transition.

Many opposition and civil society members present as the various points of the ECOWAS-mediated deal were announced appeared visibly shocked by the document’s content.

“It’s a draft. That’s all it is,” said opposition politician Benewende Sankara.

Roch Marc Christian Kabore, another leading opposition figure, said he had not been shown the content of the deal before it was announced. Guy-Herve Kam, spokesman for the civil society group Balai Citoyen (Citizen’s Broom) which helped lead the uprising against Compaore, was seen in tears.

Balai Citoyen members were among those attacked by masked presidential guard soldiers who burst into the Leico Hotel earlier in the day, brandishing assault rifles, pistols and shotguns.

Meanwhile, anti-coup protests continued for a fourth day on Sunday as demonstrators erected barricades in neighborhoods across Ouagadougou, braving the presidential guard’s attempts to break up gatherings of protesters.

“Our country calls us, comrades! We must paralyze Ouagadougou by any means,” Smockey Bambara, one of Balai Citoyen’s leaders, wrote in a Facebook post.

A Reuters witness saw presidential guard soldiers set fire to a pile of motor scooters on the street as part of efforts to limit the mobility of demonstrators.

Businesses remained closed and sporadic gunfire could be heard throughout the capital.

The junta has so far failed to gain nationwide traction for its coup, and outside the capital on Sunday, including in the second largest city Bobo-Dioulasso, people opposed to the putsch demonstrated without the interference of security forces.

(Additional reporting by Nadoun Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Ros Russell and Jonathan Oatis)

Sept 16 (Reuters) – A strong, magnitude 7.9 earthquake hit off the coast of Chile, 81 miles (130 km) west-northwest of Iquique, Chile, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Wednesday.

Hazardous tsunami waves from the quake were possible along the coasts of Chile and Peru within the next several hours, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The quake struck at a depth of 5.2 miles (8.4 km), the USGS said. A Reuters witness said the quake shook buildings in Chile’s capital, Santiago. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

PARIS, Sept 17 (Reuters) – Former president Blaise Compaore has no links to a coup in Burkina Faso, junta leader General Gilbert Diendere said on Thursday, suggesting the military acted due to the interim government’s handling of the country and election process.

Diendere, who for three decades served as Compaore’s chief military adviser and operated an intelligence network spanning West Africa, said he did not want to keep power and would hand it back to civilian rule when conditions were in place to do so.

“I’ve had no contact with him (Compaore) either before or after. I haven’t called him and he hasn’t called me,” Diendere told France 24 television.

Elections were due to be held on Oct. 11 to conclude a transition back to democratic rule after Compaore was toppled by popular protests in October when he tried to extend his 27-year rule.

Diendere said he would need to speak to political parties and the international community in the coming hours to see how to proceed.

“All change of this type can lead to violence. I am conscious of that,” he said. “Everything will be done to avoid violence that could plunge the country into chaos.”

Diendere promised to release the interim president and prime minister, who were arrested by presidential guard soldiers on Wednesday. He said the coup had the full backing of the regular army and he pledged not to interfere in legal cases against Compaore and former members of his entourage.

“I call on the people to remain calm so that we can continue on the path to inclusive and democratic elections,” he said.

“We know a coup is never accepted by the international community, but we ask it to understand the purpose of our action,” he said. “We are committed to dialogue and accept certain principles of the international community.”

Diendere said he did not want the country to be under military rule.

“We are not here to stay in power. As soon as conditions are there we will hand power back to (civilians). I have never done politics, I’m military. We’re experiencing a special situation, but I don’t do politics.” (Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Daniel Flynn)

By Colbert I. King August 14 at 6:49 PM
Witnessing sectarian turmoil in the Middle East, and observing the back and forth over which threat is most existential to countries in that religiously sensitive region, a soft voice asks: “Don’t Christian lives matter, too?” Depends upon how it’s expressed.

This weekend, the Episcopal Church and other Christian denominations will celebrate the Feast of Saint Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ, and the Catholic Church will recognize Mary’s assumption into heaven.


● An Aug. 11 article by The Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, William Booth, featured Aviya Morris, a 20-year-old West Bank settler, described as “the fresh new face of Jewish extremism.”

According to the article, “in 2013 [Morris] was arrested on suspicion of involvement in vandalizing Jerusalem’s Monastery of the Cross, where assailants left behind the spray-painted message ‘Jesus — son of a whore’ on a wall.”

Morris, The Post reported, was released without being charged.

● An Aug. 10 Anti-Defamation League news release expressed outrage at remarks made by Rabbi Bentzi Gopstein, director of Lehava, which the ADL called “a far-right extremist organization in Israel.” According to the release, Gopstein reportedly said he favored the burning of churches and compared Christianity to idol worship.

The remarks were made, the ADL said, during a symposium on Jewish religious law on Aug. 4 in Jerusalem, when Gopstein was asked: “Are you in favor of burning [churches] or not?” He replied: “Of course I am! It’s Maimonides. It’s a simple yes. What’s the question?”

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director, said in the release, “Rabbi Gopstein’s views have no place within the Jewish tradition or in a democratic society,” and Greenblatt called for an apology.

● A June 18 ADL news release condemned a suspected religiously motivated hate crime against the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish at Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.

The ADL said the 1,500-year-old church was set on fire early in the morning, damaging the prayer room and outer areas of the church: “Graffiti reading ‘False idols will be smashed’ — a line from Jewish prayer — was spray-painted on one of the walls.”
“We deplore this despicable hate crime against one of the holiest Christian sites in Israel,” said then-ADL leader Abraham H. Foxman in the release. Foxman also noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had condemned the attack and promised to prosecute the perpetrators.

Until those words describing anti-Christian hostility appeared in The Post and the ADL releases, I had never heard of Morris or Gopstein. They were made prominent by the publications. There is no indication that more than a small minority of Israelis shares such hatred. But it does exist, at least among a few, in the region where Christianity was born, and it finds expression in venom-filled words and desecrated churches.


Christians beyond Israel are far worse off.

You wouldn’t know that is the case, however, from the attention that Middle Eastern Christians receive.

Followers of Christ in Iraq, quiet as it has been kept, have borne a large brunt of the pain resulting from the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Before 2003, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in Iraq. Today, because of killings and panicked flights from terror, that number is below 500,000.

The Islamic State’s calling card to Christians in Syria and Iraq: Convert to Islam or pay with your life. Recall the scenes on the Libyan beaches where Ethiopian and Egyptian Christians were beheaded.

“We’re certainly looking at the potential end of Christianity in the Middle East if no one does anything to protect these ancient communities that are dwindling now,” said Eliza Griswold, author of a recent New York Times Magazine article about the dire straits of Christians in Iraq and Syria.

But the international dueling over the Iran nuclear deal, sectarian turmoil and Israel’s response to foreign threats overshadow the plight of Christians.

Middle Eastern Christians have no army of their own, no government that represents them in world capitals, no voice in international parleys that have a bearing on their fate. They are vulnerable; their plight is slighted by Western powers fearful, as Griswold wrote, of “appearing to play into the crusader and ‘clash of civilizations’ narratives the West is accused of embracing.”
When all’s said and done, Christians in the Middle East have only their faith.

But they know, as do the Christians who will pay tribute to Jesus’s mother — a saint, not a whore — this weekend, that earthly powers don’t have the last word, that a cup of strength lies within their grasp, and that though they suffer, they, as Christians, actually matter to the one who matters to them most of all.

Christians in Cuba received more than 83,000 Bibles earlier this month from the International Missions Board.

The Bibles come at a time of growth in the evangelical church in Cuba.

The Baptist Convention in Cuba is distributing the Bibles to believers in more than 1,000 churches all over the island.

Bibles have not been sold in Cuban bookstores for more than 50 years. The only place people can get one is at a church.

Churches have relied on Bible donations, which have had a hard time keeping up with the growing number of belivers in the past few years.

Few things frighten Philip Woo, a pastor and missionary based in Hong Kong. The Lutheran has been spreading his faith among underground churches in mainland China for 25 years.
But since 2013, he has also been engaging in a supposedly less risky activity: organising religious training for Chinese church leaders in the former British colony.
For that, he was summoned to the religious affairs bureau of a district in the southern city of Shenzhen on 1 July, the same day that China enacted a sweeping national security law.
“I was surprised to get the call,” says the 63-year-old. “I had been verbally warned before. That was expected. But this is different. I’m now afraid for my safety when I’m in China.”
‘Dangerous precedent’
At the meeting, the pastor was accused of breaking Chinese law by advertising religious courses to mainlanders on his ministry’s Hong Kong-based website.
He was also verbally instructed to stop preaching to mainland students in Hong Kong.
Although Mr Woo believes he broke no law in the special administrative region, where residents can worship freely, he agreed to sign an official document acknowledging his guilt, in order to protect colleagues who live in China full-time.
An official letter has made other evangelists in Hong Kong nervous about their activities in China
Bob Fu, president of the US-based China Aid Association, calls the incident “extraordinary”.
“This is very, very unusual,” says the China-born Christian pastor. “This is the first time I have ever heard of a Chinese religious authority issuing a letter, with a stamp, to a church leader in Hong Kong.”
“It is an escalation of mainland China’s assertiveness over Hong Kong activists. It certainly sets a dangerous precedent.”
Mr Fu, who is best known for advocating on behalf of blind campaigner Chen Guangcheng, says there appears to be a link between the written warning issued to the pastor and a rising number of church closures in Guangdong province, where Shenzhen is located.
According to China Aid, authorities in the province, which borders Hong Kong, have closed, raided or warned more than a dozen unofficial Protestant churches and schools since April.
One of them, the Guangfu House church based in Guangzhou, is trying to sue the government over the forced closure.
Its pastor, Ma Chao, says he has direct knowledge of more than 20 churches in Guangdong that have been asked to close.
Guangfu church
The Guangfu House Church was among those forced to shut down
He estimates hundreds more churches in the province have received similar orders.
Three Christian schools, including a licensed kindergarten, have also been targeted, he says.
Tough provinces
Previously, Guangdong officials had taken a relatively relaxed view of so-called “house churches”, whose members often worship in private homes.
They run independently of the state-sanctioned Three-self Church and China Christian Council, both Protestant groups, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church.
In 2010, the country had some 58m Protestants and about nine million Catholics in both official and unofficial churches – this was the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Pew Research Centre.
Mr Fu says restrictions on house churches may be lax or tight, depending on their location and the attitudes of local leaders.
Tough provinces include Tibet, Xinjiang, Henan, Guangxi and Anhui.
More relaxed regions include Fujian, Shandong, Hebei and until recently, Guangdong.
This photo taken on May 24, 2015 shows a worshipper holds rosary beads after a service celebrating the Feast of the Ascension at the
History of Hong Kong evangelism in China
South China has been a base for Christian evangelism since the early 1800s
Robert Morrison of the London Missionary Society was the first Protestant preacher in China
He arrived in then Portuguese-controlled Macau in 1807, before basing himself in Guangzhou for decades
After Hong Kong was founded in 1842, he moved the Anglo-Chinese School, now known as Ying Wa College, there in order to train British and Chinese missionaries
Government figures estimate the city to have a population of seven million people, with about 480,000 Protestants and some 374,000 Catholics, including many of the territory’s elites
In the present day, it continues to be a hotbed of Christian evangelism to China, especially as greater integration since the 1997 handover has simplified travel
A 2014 survey of more than 1,000 Protestant churches in Hong Kong by the Hong Kong Church Renewal Movement gives some insight into their activities.
More than 60% of them have organised exchanges with mainland churches at some point in the past three years.
Of those exchanges, about 40% were visits, 28% involved religious teaching and training, and 23% included preaching.
Organisations headed by overseas Chinese have also regularly conducted training in Hong Kong for leaders of official and unofficial churches in China.
In March, more than 1,000 people, most of them from the mainland, came to Hong Kong for several days of intense religious training.
Verbal warnings
Another 100 people reportedly tried to come but were blocked by Chinese authorities, according to China Aid.
A Hong Kong-based pastor who had helped to organise the event says the warning issued to Mr Woo has created an atmosphere of fear among local evangelicals working in China.
The pastor, who declines to be named because he organises training in a number of Chinese provinces, says even though the letter does not specify any kind of punishment for Mr Woo, it is a serious, official warning.
“I have seen the letter. I am really concerned. We are all afraid, ” he admits.
Guangfu church
The pastor of Guangzhou-based Guangfu church believes the order to shut down non-official churches came from the central government
Previously, he says the authorities had asked middlemen to deliver more elliptical verbal warnings urging him to watch his health, or be mindful of road safety.
He believes his phone has been recently put under surveillance, and he is concerned about the safety of his elderly mother, who still lives in China.
Calls by the BBC to the religious affairs bureau of Futian district in Shenzhen have gone unanswered.
Mr Chao, pastor of Guangzhou-based Guangfu church, says he was told by a city official in May that the shutdown was part of a campaign coordinated at the provincial level.
But after comparing stories with pastors in other provinces, he believes the order to close house churches may have originally come from central government authorities in Beijing.
Mr Chao says: “We have been told that central authorities have recently issued a document to this affect.”
‘Chinese style’ church
Their goal, he believes, is to organise the various Christian denominations under its own brand of a “Chinese style” church, approved by the Communist Party.
A crackdown on the use of crosses outside Protestant and Catholic churches, both official and unofficial, continues in the coastal province of Zhejiang.
Calls for comment by the State Administration for Religious Affairs in Beijing were unanswered.
But last year, the official China Daily quoted a top religious affairs official as saying that the country will establish a Chinese Christian theology, in line with Chinese culture.
The official, Wang Zuoan, who is director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, did not elaborate. Church leaders say, as a result, they are feeling the heat.
Despite the warning, it is business as usual for Philip Woo, who continues to travel to China to coordinate training.
He says: “Yes I am afraid, but I have to keep doing God’s work.”

Terrorist attacks against Pakistan’s Christians, such as the assaults on two congregations in Lahore in March and the September 2013 bombing outside a Peshawar church, have put the community on edge.

For Christians in Pakistan, just like myself who grew up going to church every Sunday, and just like anywhere else in the world, churches are not only a place to worship but to socialize.

Never once have I seen any Christian stop going to church out of fear of losing his or her life. Rather, Christian attendance after the attacks has surged because believers are proud to spend their lives as servants of Christ and be remembered as martyrs for Jesus.

The rise in attacks against churches coincides with an overall increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Taking on terrorism is a gigantic task for a government already overwhelmed with challenges ranging from economic instability, an energy crisis, and maintaining daily law and order.

Christians make up only about 2 percent of Pakistan’s population but the state is bound by the Constitution to protect the rights of minorities. Article 36 says: “The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities.”

Unfortunately, successful assaults against churches and individual Christians make that provision nearly meaningless.

The government has provided security to various churches in major cities, but terrorist incidents in the capital cities of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhawa are evidence that government security often is not enough.

Since churches meet every Sunday, the task of security is so daunting that it appears the government is not up to the challenge.

As a result, a group of Christian men are forming a strategy to fight the threat of terrorism in Pakistan. After the attacks in March, 16 young men banded together to form a security team to defend local churches.

The inspiration behind the formation of this team is Luke 11:21 from the Bible: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe.”

The team’s goal is not to point out the government’s failings, but to defend churches.

The team began by offering its services the Shalom Presbyterian Church in Bahar Colony, Lahore, the cultural capital of the country and has since expanded to provide security at six more churches in neighboring areas.

“We are more blessed and strengthened in God day by day and we are looking forward to reach more and more churches in Lahore and other parts of the country, irrespective of the denomination,” team spokesman Waqar Peter Gill said.

Gill described individual team members’ backgrounds as coming from different fields of life: musicians, bankers, government and semi-government organization employees, computer technicians and teachers, and transportation and information services. However, they all share one commitment and that is to defend the churches.

Local police and security officials fully support the team’s mission and believe that it will increase church security by identifying suspicious people or activity near the church during service times.

Since the team members know the church members and can identify visitors, they have an advantage over police. The police work with members of the team, who have their own licensed weapons.

I also asked Gill about the effectiveness of this security team to respond to terror attacks. He told me they are seeking emergency medical staff that would be on site to help with first aid needs in case of an attack. They’re also counting on churches to request the government provide people to train the medical staff.

The initiative by this young group of the Christian men is a huge step forward to defend the churches and an act of bravery by these young Christian men. They are not security guards by profession, but their determination and perseverance to protect the churches is too strong to be shaken.

The eagerness of the team to expand their area of working in other churches would be the perfect example of unity against any threat. Their message is very clear that they are going to defend the churches until their last breath.

Lubna Thomas Benjamin is freelance writer and 2011-2012 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow.

Open Doors is reporting that there is currently a $20 million funding gap for Christian refugees displaced by the Islamic State. More Christians are being displaced each month, and do not have access to food.

Sadly, in spite of the need, few organizations are staying. This has created a crisis for displaced families.  A crisis that is not being effectively addressed.

Two months after the first of two major earthquakes hit Nepal, people in six farming districts in the north of the country are warning that some of the greatest dangers lie ahead.

Heavy monsoon rains have begun, dumping water relentlessly on mountain slopes already loosened by the quakes and many aftershocks.

These areas bore the brunt of the devastation, with one district — Sindhupalchowk — accounting for four out of 10 of the more than 8,700 people killed in the disaster. An estimated 90% of homes were damaged.

The threat of further landslides hangs over the slopes and valleys, adding more stress and worry for farmers who are already traumatised. Before the rainy season, more than 1,000 landslides had been recorded, claiming lives and destroying more crops, roads and irrigation systems.

The threat of further landslides hangs over the slopes and valleys, adding more stress and worry for traumatised farmers
At the same time, food insecurity is rising. In the hardest-hit areas, most people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. They produce just enough food for their families with the bare minimum of livestock and basic tools, sometimes on as little as an acre of land. Any damage or loss instantly translates into less food on plates.

A report recently released by agencies working on food security in Nepal gives the clearest picture yet of the impact of the disaster on farmers in the worst-affected areas. It found they have lost much of their harvested crops of rice, maize, wheat and millet, and seeds for future planting, which are now buried under collapsed homes.

Cattle, poultry and other livestock were killed, and many farm tools lost, delivering a heavy blow to household income and nutrition. The report also found that one in four of these farm households were headed by women, with many men working in the Gulf states or elsewhere overseas to support their families. These households are more vulnerable to poor nutrition and more likely to resort to selling valuable assets, such as tools, for cash to buy food.

For now, these mountain farmers have salvaged what they can from their destroyed homes and are sheltering under tarpaulins, in plastic vegetable tunnels, or even in cowsheds. Many are waiting out the monsoon before deciding what to do next.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that more international support is needed to stave off the threat of prolonged food insecurity faced by some 900,000 people in these six districts. It estimates that $23.4m (£15m) in emergency agricultural assistance is required. Only about 25% has been received so far, from Norway, Canada, Italy, Belgium and FAO’s own funds. These humanitarian needs remain critical.

At the same time, the positive idea of “building back better” during longer-term reconstruction was mentioned repeatedly at a major international donor conference in Kathmandu in June. It is encouraging to see strong interest in projects to reduce the risk of future disasters and increase resilience to these crises.

The challenge now is to agree on how that would work in the context of Nepal, a country prone to earthquakes and landslides. Much of its landscape is covered by small-scale farms, clinging to the sides of mountains that run along a major faultline between the Indian and Eurasian plates. It’s not enough to simply help these farmers rebuild their homes, hand over some seeds for planting, and then walk away.

For example, as well as providing immediate support for crops and animals, the FAO is planning urgent rehabilitation work to stabilise risky mountain slopes and map and monitor major cracks in the earth for any movement. Farmers could be be given early warning of significant new landslide risks over the radio. The FAO will also support irrigation repairs, to help ensure a good winter harvest – particularly for potatoes and wheat.

The Nepalese are tenacious and hard-working. We owe it to them to help them emerge from this crisis stronger and better able to cope next time around.

Now is the time to start building resilience. There is both an opportunity and an imperative to help Nepal build back better. We must maintain the momentum on this idea, while continuing to meet the pressing humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable families.

Daniele Donati is deputy director, emergency and rehabilitation division at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). He travelled to Nepal at the end of June

BANGKOK, July 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Bangkok’s tap water supply may run out in a month, as the country waits for long overdue rains to replenish sources depleted by drought and threatened by seawater creep, the chief of the capital’s water authority said.

Thailand is suffering its worst drought in more than a decade. In an effort to maintain water levels in the dams that supply water for agriculture in the provinces as well as taps in the capital Bangkok, the government has asked farmers to refrain from planting rice since last October.

Despite these measures, water levels are critically low in the three key reservoirs that flow into the Chao Phraya River, one of the two main sources of Bangkok’s tap water.

The quantity of water collected in the three dams totalled 5 billion cubic metres last November, compared to the normal 8 billion cubic metres, said Thanasak Watanathana, governor of the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority. As of Monday, there was about 660 million cubic metres left, according to the Royal Irrigation Department.

“Right now, there is only enough water in the dams to distribute for about 30 more days – if it doesn’t rain,” Thanasak told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

Normally, the flow of water from the rains and dams keeps saltwater from the Gulf of Thailand at bay. But during droughts, the saltwater creeps upstream, turning the Chao Phraya brackish.

The seawater can kill crops and threatens the pumping station that siphons off water from the river, about 100 km (60 miles) from the gulf. The waterworks authority produces 5.2 million cubic metres of tap water per day for 2.2 million residential, business and industrial customers, but is not equipped to treat saltwater.

“Some days the saltwater increases, we don’t intake the water from the Chao Phraya River. We stop and use the water from the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority stocks of water in canals. We can stop intake for 3 hours,” Thanasak said.

The waterworks authority has asked Bangkok residents to store a reserve of 60 litres of drinking water in the event of a shortage. It has also urged people to use less water, but has had little success on this front in part, said Thanasak, because water customers pay only 8.50 baht ($0.25) per 1,000 litres.

“It’s too cheap, so people don’t feel the need to conserve. It has been this price since July 1999. It’s probably the big city with the cheapest water in the world,” he said.

The Metropolitan Waterworks Authority plans to invest 45 billion baht ($1.3 billion) over the next seven years to increase production and storage. It has also started discussions on a 30-year plan to forecast water demand, identify sources of water and protect against saltwater intrusion, Thanasak said.

Large-scale rainwater collection should be part of that solution, he said, adding that currently when it rains in Bangkok, all the water drains into the sea, wasted.

“We also have floods every year, and we waste that water by letting it out to the sea. So how can we save some of that water to solve the problems during the dry season?” he said.

“They are releasing so much rainwater into the sea. It’s more than we have in our entire dam system. Even if we could save 10 percent of it, it would be a lot.” (Reporting by Alisa Tang, editing by Ros Russell)