On 25-26 June 2012, members of MWD Thai National Working Group (TNWG) gathered in Chiang Khan, Loei Province in northeastern Thailand. The meeting was co-hosted by Chiang Khan Municipality, local NGOs and researchers were invited to join the discussion and share information.
"Chiang Khan is a small town located by the Mekong River where Lao PDR is only on the opposite side of the river. While the town becomes a popular tourist destination for the Thais, we are facing environmental problems caused by tourism and development projects. However, we work with different stakeholders to ensure the environment of this city is protected", said the Deputy Mayor of Chiang Khan during his welcoming speech.
Yutthana Vongsopa, a researcher of Loei River Basin Conservation Project supported by Thailand Research Fund and The Loei Fund , revealed that environmental problems found here include soil erosion, leading to sedimentation in natural waterways, toxic chemicals used in theagricultural sector, solid waste management, water pollution, floods and mining.
"Although Loei is a small province, it has a wealth of natural resources like gold. Therefore, there are many mining concessions in several districts of Loei, particularly in Chiang Khan. Unfortunately, the mining companies illegally invade protected areas for mineral resources. Local people experience health impacts", added Wacharaporn Wattanankham, a local researcher who has spent years collecting data on the mining sector and impacts toward local livelihoods, villagers' health and natural resources.
Tuanjai Deetes, a former member of the Senate and now the Chair-person of TNWG expressed strong concern about this issue and recommended that,
"It's important to link the river basin in the north and northeast together, so we can share information and lesson learned. We can strategically accelerate our work to reach the greatest impact".
The meeting participants discussed various aspects of national water management policy of Thailand and related water laws. Hannanong Yaowalers, a TNWG member, informed the meeting that currently the Thai government allocated 350,000 Million Baht(or US$ 11.6 Billion) to combat floods by constructing infrastructures, expanding forest areas, city planning, and disaster preparedness.
This lead to discussion of and agreement for further actions to be taken this year by the TNWG. Major national seminars are to be organised in collaboration with the Law Reform Commission of Thailand, and the Thai Water Partnership and other partners.
"We will work together on research, reviewing existing knowledge and analysing current water management practices. We also plan to organise a seminar on national water policy in August and a public forum to discuss about water laws in September", said Tawatchai Rattanasorn, MWD Coordinator for Thailand.
By Dararat Weerapong
Note to editor:
For further information, please contact Tawatchai Rattanasorn, MWD Coordinator for Thailand, Tel: +66 819720472 Email: tawatchai.RATTANASORN@iucn.org