Every year Thailand makes a splash with the world’s largest water fight. Half a million people flock to the country for Songkran, the New Year festival that’s celebrated with everything from water guns to hoses to elephants spewing water. This year, however, officials are asking participants to curb water use in the face of the worst drought in more than 21 years – though some critics claim the celebrations shouldn’t take place at all.
Songkran puts a fun spin on New Year resolutions: instead of a batch of goals, revelers symbolically wash themselves of the past year through a giant water fight. People spend days soaked and water runs in the streets. But this year drought has left some concerned about how the traditional bash should be celebrated.
Out of Thailand’s 76 provinces, 26 were labeled disaster zones due to the persisting drought. 16 big reservoirs in the country are at less than 30 per cent of their capacity, and last year the country received 11 percent of their average rainfall.
It’s not the best time for a water festival, but drought won’t stop this year’s Songkran. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said, “I will not ban water throwing, that’s impossible. Parents should teach their children to use less water and not splash it around for three days and three nights.”
Officials are taking measures to limit water waste. Each year free water distribution centers keep people splashing, and this year they won’t operate at all, and the water fight will be curtailed each evening at 9 PM, which is earlier than in prior years.
Reuters reports that elephants have even been trained to conserve water, pulling up less and targeting people more closely rather than a random spray, and people have been asked to lay down their water guns and buckets and pick up a spray bottle instead.