During the summer of 2020, Thailand experienced one if the worst droughts in 40 years, while floods at the end of that same year lead to at least eight districts of the Yala Province being underwater (Thai Enquirer). Thailand has issued a series of national plans over the past 50 years to tackle droughts, floods, and growing demand for water for agricultural and economic activities. Improvements have been made such has building up and expanding irrigation constructions, using water sources more efficiently, encouraging the involvement of the private sector, managing demand by taxing water, and switching from a project-based approach to a more centralized approach with more guidelines (and later switching to a project-to project approach again, as the top-down management proved unsuccessful). These steps have improved the situation, but national plans have not overcome demand growing with the economy and population or weak coordination between organizations (FAO).
Thailand recently implemented a 20-year masterplan for water management to resolve its chronic drought, flood and wastewater problems. The masterplan, which will focus on supplying clean water, solving floods, building dams and restoring watershed areas, is the one of four pillars. The remaining three consist of the Water Resources Act, reducing redundancy, and developing new ideas and technologies to address problems (Bangkok Post).
The government is willing to invest in good water management, but the Thai government must provide bigger budgets and improve communication between River Basin Committees (RBCs) and National Water Resource Committee (NWRC). Moreover, RBCs need clear directives and freedom from interference from national and local governments if they are to succeed at managing local waters. The roles and responsibilities of RBCs in relation to other agencies must be clarified. If these issues are tackled, the RBCs can benefit from the help and diversity of stakeholders in understanding and managing water issues.
Counterintuitively, it is also recommended to not have a holistic view of all natural resources. Instead, the focus should be on water, with the option to include other natural resources later in the process. Second, Integrated Water Management (IWRM) capacities need to also be strengthened at the Department of Water Resources and Ministry of National Resources and Environment. Third, priority basins need to integrate community activities and priorities with IWRM-driven investment projects (World Bank).
Bottom Line: Existing structures must be strengthened and given clear directives so they can support bottom-up cooperation with local communities.
* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂