Spatial planning in Mai Root Sub-district
23 September 2013 | Article
Villagers at Ban Klong Takian try to come up with the best possible plan for their own village, whilst at the same time protecting natural resources and the surrounding environment.
The way that houses cling to the banks of the creek at Ban Klong Takian in Mai Root Sub-district, Trat Province is a common sight in many coastal villages throughout Thailand, but many of the people living in these homes are being placed at risk because of poor spatial planning.
Two Thammasat University student-interns from the Faculty of Architecture and Planning, Pensiri Piyaprai and Tanaporn Tunya, worked with Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF) to help local communities review and improve spatial planning for their villagers over a period of two months. After collecting data on the village layout, the materials used for construction, roads, public utilities and monsoon flows, they presented their findings and potential solutions for reducing vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change for the villagers and leaders to consider. SDF firmly believes that better land use and infrastructure planning leads to more resilient communities.
Good spatial planning requires a careful inspection of human-environmental interaction – areas such as wastewater treatment, where in the case of Ban Klong Takian wastewater is currently pumped either into the ground or into nearby creeks. A further vulnerability that the student-interns highlighted was the construction of a large number of wooden dwellings very close together in a relatively confined area, which constitutes a relatively serious fire hazard, since a household fire in one home can easily spread to nearby homes too. Villagers were asked to consider increasing the space between dwellings to prevent fire spreading, and to consider conducting regular fire drills. Existing spatial planning weaknesses identified included a lack of access to fresh water and electricity for homes situated along the creek, whilst future threats are expected to include villagers' lack of land title documents, coastal erosion, inundation and flooding, and the purchase and development of land by private investors from outside the sub-district.
The student-interns also worked at the sub-district level, developing two alternative spatial plans to improve land use management in the future, and thereby reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to climate change. The first plan involved relocating residential property inland along the roadside, with the coastal area reserved for natural resources and tourism activity. The aim was to reduce the impact of coastal erosion, inundation and flooding on villagers’ homes, whilst at the same time improving access to utilities and services, which would be located near to the main road. The second plan involved a reorientation towards low carbon tourism and increased use of renewable energy sources. The aim was to keep the sub-district as ‘green’ as possible to attract eco-tourists, with the coastal area containing a mix of natural resources, tourism activity, residential property and agricultural activity such as coconut plantations.
“We learned many things from the people in the community. We know what situation our planet is in, and we must act to solve these problems together. The most important thing that I have learned is that each community has their own capacities and abilities,” commented Tanaporn Tunya.
The community members very much appreciated the presentations and suggestions made by the student-interns. “For us, this is our job. But for the communities, it is their lives. The communities have to realize the critical role they have to play in responding to disasters and adapting to climate change,” stated Pensiri Piyaprai.
By Lean Deleon
Project Manager and Disaster Management Consultant
Sustainable Development Foundation
Sustainable Development Foundation