Water For Agriculture, Thailand

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Water For Agriculture, Thailand



Focus Areas

Geographic Scope




Background and Significance

Despite the development of water supply and sanitation infrastructures, morbidity rates remain high due to the high bacterial contamination of water. The Bureau of Epidemiology (2001) found that acute diarrhoea and food poisoning are still increasing, whereas between 1983 and 2001, the incidences of enteric fevers, dysentery and helminthes decreased. The main reasons for increasing diarrhoea and food poisoning are considered to be unhygienic food handling and a lack of awareness concerning the protection of water resources. Also alarming is the increasing number of diseases caused by chemical and toxic substances contaminating water resources. These contaminants are of domestic, industrial and agricultural origin. For example, lead and tin poisoning has been linked to improper mining practices, and high concentrations of fluoride in groundwater resources have also caused dental problems.

Management conflicts in local authority wastewater treatment systems often result in ineffective and non-continuous performance, which causes high bacterial contamination of receiving water bodies. The major obstacles preventing effective functioning of wastewater treatment facilities are insufficient financing for system operation and a lack of regular maintenance.

Moreover, the efforts of individual ministries responsible for different sectors are isolated and not well-coordinated. This lack of coordination renders IWRMimplementation difficult, in addition to impeding the Government in reaching its objectives in water management. Furthermore, the main source of water in industry is aquifers. However, over-utilization of these water resources, especially around Bangkok region, has caused serious land subsidence. Social and economic damage from floods present further problems. In 1995, a flood in the Chao Phraya River basin caused about US $290,000 in damage; the costliest in the last seventeen years.

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions

The National, Economic and Social Development Plan (NESDP), prepared every five years, is the main mechanism for policy development and planning for the improved utilization of natural resources and environmental protection. Since the eighth NESDP (1997 to 2001), a participatory approach has been adapted to include important civil society organizations in its preparation. This was followed by an institutional reform and a restructuring of agencies responsible for the conservation and management of protected areas, which resulted in the establishment of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in 2002. A framework for environmental conservation has been established under the Policy and Prospective Plan for National Environmental Quality Enhancement and Protection (1997-2016) in addition to an Environmental Management Plan (2002-2006). However, despite of the reforms and changes in the institutional system, the management of natural resources has not been fully integrated into sectoral planning. Different ministries have varying responsibilities, objectives and priorities for managing water resources and the environment

To alleviate the problem of overutilization of aquifers, the main source of water in industry, the government of Thailand is promoting alternative sources of water supply and water-efficient processes in industry. Evidently, the availability of freshwater could be a constraint to industrial development in the future. At present, the Thai government encourages the private sector to provide water to industry as well as to the municipalities. For example, Provincial Waterworks Authority of Thailand (PWA) has engaged a private company (East Water Company) to supply water to the industrial sector in the eastern part of Thailand. Moreover, Thailand increasingly encourages water user groups/organizations to more actively participate in the management and allocation of water in secondary canals.

In order to prevent flood damage, many structural and non-structural measures are being implemented, including the utilization of GIS and the creation of a flood risk map covering twenty-five basins. Furthermore, the installation of warning systems, such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), are being suggested. To prevent and mitigate flood and drought, the Department of Water Resources has established the Water Crisis Prevention Center for collecting data, monitoring and formulating disaster policy responses. Unfortunately, at this stage, risk management activities remain poorly implemented.

Results and Impact

While Thailand possesses abundant water resources, growing demand coupled with pollution puts an increasing pressure on these resources. For many rural communities, cultivation has been the main source of livelihood and survival. Although the significant expansion of agriculture has contributed to ensuring food security and reducing poverty in Thailand, it has caused significant deforestation and widespread watershed degredation. While industry has become the major source of GDP, toxic wastes have polluted surface and groundwater supplies and damaged aquatic ecosystems. As a country that has achieved most of the MDGs, effective systems for conserving and protecting natural resources have become central to national development projects.

Overall, Thailand has made good progress towards achieving several of the MDGs, including those related to water. For example, access to safe water and basic sanitation is above 90 percent in both rural and urban areas. The current challenge is to address the opportunity disparities that exist between different regions.

Since insufficient financing and a lack of regular maintenance are the main obstacles preventing effective functioning of wastewater treatment facilities, it is recommended that these be placed as high priorities in the future activities. Risk management activities should also be better implemented.

Lessons for Replication

A lack of awareness concerning the protection of water resources is hindering efforts to reduce water-related diseases. Awareness raising initiatives should be implemented as soon as possible.

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

The Experience at a Glance

Implementing Agency(ies)


See also

Other case studies in Thailand
  1. Mekong Case Study
  2. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Mekong River Basin

External Resources

Case Study summary

Full case report


 Thailand.pdf  Thailand full cs.pdf

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