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Keeping Thailand’s taps from running dry

Greeley Pulitzer

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Keeping Thailand’s taps from running dry | The Thaiger
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“There is no way that we can send enough water to supply all these farms.”

It could be the worst seasonal drought for four decades according to the Office of National Water Resources.

Speaking to the Bangkok Post, ONWR secretary-general Somkiat Prajamwong recalled that during the severe drought in 2015 (when Thailand was under military rule), soldiers were sent to protect wells from indiscriminate pumping by local villagers irrigating their farms.

Somkiat has a long history with the Thai Royal Irrigation Department and it the leading authority in the country when it comes to water management issues.

“Now the government can’t do that because the country has become a democracy. People will do whatever they want, and this could lead to disputes.”

The ONWR was created two years ago to address the country’s water issues and challenges, and is “in charge of water resource management and coordinating policies and goals across 20 state agencies”.

When head of the Royal Irrigation Department, Somkiat spent decades building irrigation canals and developing water infrastructures across the country, ranging from small dams to mega reservoirs. But he says the ONWR is different, serving more as a think tank to develop the country’s water strategies and policies.

He says the ONWR is also promoting less water-intensive crops, providing alternative jobs during periods of drought and proposing compensation for farmers who skip a year of planting due to this year’s drought.

“The situation will get worse because the RID might need to release fresh water, which should really be saved for consumption, to drive out seawater which is rushing into the Chao Phraya.”

“We are trying to limit the pumping of water to farmlands because we really have to save what little water we have for human consumption,” he told the Bangkok Post.

Thailand’s Central region is predicted to be the hardest hit by the looming drought, focussed on the 22 provinces along the Chao Phraya River. Somkiat also predicts farmland will be affected because the amount of land for farming has risen by 3 million rai in recent years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

Keeping Thailand's taps from running dry | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Somkiat Prajamwong, the Office of National Water Resources secretary general – National News Bureau of Thailand

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Environment

Second death in China from virus concerns officials with the CNY holidays looming

The Thaiger

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Second death in China from virus concerns officials with the CNY holidays looming | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Five patients remain in serious condition in Wuhan - New York Times

“At least 41 people have now been diagnosed as being infected this latest flu-like strain.”

Medical officials in China’s Wuhan city have announced that another man had died after being infected by the new coronavirus strain. Thailand and Japan have now reported new cases of a the Chinese Coronavirus that has already killed two and infected at least 40 in China. There are growing concerns about the spread of the virus beyond Chinese ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays. Chinese New Year will be celebrated on January 25 this year but many Chinese, and people of Chinese ethnicity, travel before and after this date, including trips over seas.

The Chinese man, reported to be aged 69, was admitted to a Wuhan hospital on December 31 with “abnormal renal function”. The man died from pneumonia linked to the new strain of the coronavirus outbreak in the central China province.

Chinese scientists identified the illness as a new strain of coronavirus, which is in the same family as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Symptoms of coronaviruses can range from fever and coughing to kidney failure, and in some cases lead to death.

At least 41 people have now been diagnosed as being infected this latest flu-like strain, earlier called the “Wuhan Flu”, and now referred to as Chinese Coronavirus.

Five patients still remain in a serious condition. Chinese medical officials state that no cases of human-to-human transmission of the new viral strain have been confirmed so far.

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Air Pollution

Salty tap water and dirty air – Bangkok’s environmental woes continue today

The Thaiger

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Salty tap water and dirty air – Bangkok’s environmental woes continue today | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Government House officials are turning to salt-tolerant plants - khaosod.co.th

Brackish tap water, with increased salinity caused by seawater back-flowing into the Chao Phraya River, is threatening the gardens in and around the Government House compound. Government House officials are seeking assistance from the Agriculture Department.

Several small tree species – Lamduan, Chor Sumalee, Rachavadi, Nom Maew and Hom Muenlee – are more vulnerable to brackish tap water. The gardens are watered from a supply pumped in from the Chao Phraya.

It’s been noted tha the saline level was around 400 milligrams per litre, still within the 1,000 mg/litre standard, but some of the species were already intolerant to the rising salinity.

Officials are seeking advice from the Agriculture Department about long-term measures to replant with species which would be more tolerant to the rising salinity of the water – situation they acknowledge will need to be managed in the short to medium term.

Salty tap water and dirty air - Bangkok's environmental woes continue today | News by The Thaiger

SCREENGRAB: Air Visual

Meanwhile, air around the capital today continues to be universally poor to very poor with readings as high as 187 near Suvarnabhumi Airport. Light airs, dust problems from northern-easter provinces and hot continental air flowing across the capital, continue to haunt Bangkok. Even with many factories closed today, and traffic lighter than weekdays, Bangkok’s air has been recorded as the ninth worst city in the world for air pollution.

Right across the city the air quality readings are into the ‘unhealthy’ zone.

Chiang Mai, Lampang and Central Thailand are fairing no better – all with readings at least 3 times the Thai upper safe limit of 50 microns of 2.5micron particulate per cubic metre. The World Health Organisation sets its limit even lower at 25.

Pattaya has air quality readings today of 162, whilst even Phuket, in the south, is registering readings between 100 and 145 with reduced visibility today.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

Salty tap water and dirty air - Bangkok's environmental woes continue today | News by The Thaiger

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Environment

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future

The Thaiger

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10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | The Thaiger
PHOTO: North eastern agriculture goes mod - The Isaan Record

“Green” is not usually the word that comes to mind when speaking of Thailand, especially when you are speaking through a PM2.5 face mask. But with recent attempts to improve the environment and tackle waste, here are some positive changes to shift your attention from air pollution and help you feel good about the decision to live, invest, or retire in the Land of Smiles.

1. 7-Eleven and Big C don’t hand out plastic bags any more

You may have been frustrated at how 7-Eleven handed out plastic bags for something like an ice-cream (which was already in a plastic wrapper), only to be thrown away into the bin just outside the store. But since January 2020, major retailers, supermarkets, and convenience stores (including Central malls, Makro, Big C, and 7-Eleven) have stopped providing free single-use plastic bags to customers.

The ban doesn’t only reduce a huge amount of plastic waste, but it went viral after locals, expats, and tourists amused the Internet community with extremely creative alternatives. The initiative is also setting an example for smaller retailers and vendors to follow suit in the future as pressure builds on social media for all Thais to take on responsibility for fewer plastic bags in the Thai eco-system in the future.

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | News by The Thaiger

2. Phuket closes a famous island to restore marine ecology

Tourism is one of the main economic drivers for the Thai economy (around 13-15% of the Thai GDP), but unsustainability is a big issue, too. However, hopes are not lost as the country has started closing fragile destinations from tourists until nature recovers.

Maya Bay, which appeared in the Hollywood blockbuster ​The Beach, has been closed to the public for coral restoration since 2018. Soon, following the closure, over a hundred reef sharks returned. When it reopens in 2021 (only a tentative plan at this stage), officers will limit the number of visitors, and boats will have to access the island without throwing their anchors onto the reefs.

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | News by The Thaiger

3. Pattaya hosts an annual carbon-neutral lifestyle event

Festivals can be fun, inspiring, and also environmentally-friendly. Wonderfruit, held annually in Pattaya, is one of the biggest lifestyle and music events in Asia that attracts expats and tourists from around the world. Many call it the “Burning Man of Asia” because, apart from the music, workshops, and diverse crowd, it also focuses heavily on sustainability; single-use cups are not allowed, and every construction is made from eco-friendly, recycled, or locally-sourced materials. Its iconic stage can be taken down and reassembled to create new shapes to reduce waste.

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | News by The Thaiger

4. A Bangkok park helps fight floods

It’s a well-known fact among locals and expats that heavy rainfall can trigger floods in Bangkok’s streets. But an award-winning park in downtown Bangkok does an amazing job of alleviating floods while providing much-needed green spaces and providing an elevated view of the flat city.

Created to celebrate the centenary of Chulalongkorn University, Chulalongkorn Centenary Park uses large green roofs to collect and channel rainwater to the storage tanks underground for later watering use. During severe floods, the system can store up to 5 million litres of water. Couple this with Bangkok’s attempt to increase and improve access to green spaces, and you can feel a positive trend is happening.

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | News by The Thaiger

5. Starbucks and major Thai coffee shops no longer provide plastic straws

Starbucks plans to replace plastic straws with strawless lids or alternative-material ones in all of its 30,000 shops across the globe during 2020. Starbucks Coffee in Thailand began providing eco-friendly paper straws for customers on Jan 6, 2020. Similarly, Thai coffee giant Café Amazon provides biodegradable straws and compostable cups for all hot drinks. Meanwhile, Inthanin Coffee is served in cups made from 100% plant biomass. Their cups are also designed without straws.

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | News by The Thaiger

6. Thailand will ban plastic straws, cups, and styrofoam containers by 2022

Local street food and non-biodegradable consumables often come hand-in-hand. But that will change as these lightweight plastic bags, styrofoam food containers, single-use plastic cups and straws will be banned by 2022. The country has successfully banned microbead plastics in cosmetics, oxo-degradable plastics, and bottle cap seals, and has laid out a roadmap to recycle all plastic by 2027.

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | News by The Thaiger

7. Artificial reefs near Koh Samui offer an exotic and eco-friendly experience

Pristine beaches, aquamarine water, and colorful marine life attract many to Thailand. Luckily, many also take part in protecting this ecology. The party island of Koh Pha Gnan near Koh Samui, for instance, has a new diving landmark that looks like small oil rigs. They are the prototypes to prove the viability of the plan to reuse old oil rigs in Thailand.

The artificial reefs near Koh Samui can help lower the impact on authentic reefs and offer a new experience for divers as well as prevent destructive fishing when fishermen drag a large net across the seafloor. The artificial reefs were placed underwater in ​Ao Chaloklum Bay​ and attract young corals and many species of fish.

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | News by The Thaiger

8. The government is going paperless

The amount of paperwork required when contacting state agencies can be bewildering and is certainly unsustainable. However, this is changing. State agencies in Thailand have pledged to digitise their documents and will no longer require stacks of paper documents.

Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI), for example, now offers work permits and long-term visas in digital formats and an online visa and work permit application platform for BOI companies – there’s no printed version. This doesn’t only cut down on numerous paper forms, but also makes it much more convenient for expats who now have digital work permits and visas with them all the time on their phones.

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | News by The Thaiger

9. “Kayaking For Chao Phraya” fights river dumping

There are many trash collection heroes and beach cleanup groups in Thailand. But “Kayaking for Chao Phraya” is one of the biggest events when it comes to river cleaning and anti-river dumping campaigns in Thailand. Led by a prominent professor at Thammasat University​, ​Thai and foreign volunteers kayak and collect rubbish they find along the Chao Phraya river. The journey is about 400 kilometres long and takes about 10 days to complete. The trash they collect is weighed, sorted, and recycled.

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | News by The Thaiger

10. Thailand has amended a law to help increase forest cover

Illegal logging can threaten forests that are home to exotic wildlife, unique to Thailand. To ease illegal logging, the country has amended the Forest Act to allow planting and felling of precious trees, such as teak, on private land and provides free sprouts to farmers. This initiative is part of the goal to increase forest cover from 31.6% to the target 55% by 2037.

10 ways Thailand is moving to a greener future | News by The Thaiger

With these positive initiatives from locals, expats, private companies, and the government to be more sustainable, Thailand will remain an ideal place to live and retire, in the future.

If you’d like to check out homes, villas, condos and other property all around Thailand, to live in or for investment, go to FazWaz.com

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