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Issues Asia: Thailand Study

Crisis Spotlight- Thailand

by Sahisna Suwal

The Kingdom of Thailand is located in Southeastern region of Asia with a population of over 68 million people and covers a land area of 513,115 square kilometers. There are four main geographical regions in the country: the North, the Central Plains, the Northeast, and the South. There are a total of 25 river basins in the country and Thailand’s annual rainfall is around 1700 mm. Like other Asian countries, increasing population, urbanization, agricultural and industrial expansion is impacting the water quality of various water sources. Pollutants from human activities also contribute to the degradation of the water quality. The severe flooding in the rainy season and extreme drought in the dry season could become two major sources of Thailand’s water crisis.

The primary sources for drinking water for many Thai citizens are from surface and ground water sources. Untreated domestic sewage, industrial wastewater and solid hazardous wastes have increased in the surface water bodies. It is reported that one third of the surface water is of poor quality in Thailand. The quality of surface water does vary across the four regions of the country but tests show that surface water in the Northern Central and Southern regions are the poorest quality. The largest source of groundwater is in the Lower Central plain surrounding Bangkok and is used to meet the region’s water demands. Agricultural run-off pollutants, aquaculture and sewage are polluting the groundwater that is available. In addition, there isn’t a clear policy in extracting groundwater beyond sustainable yield levels so there is over-exploitation of groundwater extraction rates.

Thailand’s changing climate patterns has led to instability and challenges to the people and the infrastructure. Drought is being caused by irregular rainfall and has become a significant issue in Thailand in the recent years. The Central Plain has no large water reservoirs of their own and must rely on dams in the country's lower Northern region for water. Due to the long periods of droughts each year this has led to a decrease in the amount of water flowing into the dams. The long durations of these droughts are also impacting the production of rice. Thailand is the world’s largest rice exporter and the agricultural sector takes up 70% of the nation’s total water supply. This has become an emerging problem because farmers have expanded farming outside of irrigated zones. Many farmers also do not conserve water and have failed to plan crop production efficiently. On the other hand, Thailand also faces a flooding crisis, with many regions facing lengthy heavy rainfall. This has led to agriculture and livestock damage along with effects on people’s health.

Water scarcity is a global threat that is estimated to hit Thailand hard by 2025. The country must develop a long-term plan to manage these challenges. Effective water management needs to be implemented in Thailand, especially in effectively dealing with flood and drought problems.


Water Quality and Sanitation

by Michael Sutherland

Interview with Bua Bishop

By Sahisna Suwal

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The following is a short interview with Bua Bishop, a Thai citizen, in regards to her personal perspectives on the current water issues in Thailand. She currently lives in Roi-Ed Province of Thailand.

1. What do you believe are some current water issues in Thailand?

Bua: The current water issue in the Northeast of Thailand is the drought which gets worse in summer (late March-June). Most of people here are farmers so their living is depend on natural water source such as river or rain. Thus, the soil in the Northeast of Thailand is sandy soil so it’s barely holding the water.

2. How do these challenges affect daily life?

Bua: The drought has been affecting my community for years. In my village all working age people move to the city to work for the manufactory instead because there is not enough water to do farming anymore. Now there are only old people and children left in the village which lead to the other problem such as school quitting, drug and teenage pregnancy.

3. How do the people handle this problem in Thailand?

Bua: They usually build the big public water tank so they can store some rain to use through the summer. Some people pay lots of money on seeking for new underground water source.

4. What do you believe needs to be done?

Bua: The government should work on how to save up some water in the rainy season so the

farmer can use through the summer period without waiting for mother of nature. There is one dam in the Northeast area but it’s not enough so I think the government should work on building more dams and educate people about how to face the drought.

5. Is there anything you would like to add from your personal experience?

Bua: The government should also educate the famer about global warming issue too because some farmers still don’t know that their farm has been causing the global warming such as burning the weed and unwanted crop, using too much machine instead of animal and human labor and so forth.

Bua’s recounts demonstrate that the water issue in Thailand affect various groups of the population and has an impact on the country’s economy. She also highlights the need for awareness and education of environmental issues to the population so that they have a better understanding of these problems.

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