Cleaning-up a polluted canal in Thailand

The Bang Pa Canal in Thailand is a vital source of fresh water for many area farmers but due to dumping of untreated wastewater into the canal, it's water quality is severely deteriorated. This recently launched project by the Asian Institute of Technology will benefit 900 households in 7 villages.

SEA-UEMA, Asian Institute of Technology water pollution project

The Bang Pa Canal, which serpentines across Thailand’s agricultural Ratchaburi province for thirty-seven kilometers, is a vital source of fresh water for many area farmers. However, the constant dumping of untreated wastewater into the canal by upstream industrial establishments and pig farms has taken a severe toll. Today the canal’s water quality is severely deteriorated, placing at risk the health and livelihoods of all those who reside along its banks.

Mindful of the serious water pollution affecting Bang Pa Canal, Ratchaburi provincial officials and community leaders recently welcomed an innovative initiative to combat the problem led by the Southeast Asia Urban Environmental Management Applications Project (SEA-UEMA Project), (http://www.sea-uema.ait.ac.th) located at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).

The one-year SEA-UEMA project titled “Community and stakeholder participation in water quality improvement and pollution abatement in Bang Pa Canal in a peri-urban area of Ratchaburi Province” was launched on September 28. It is expected to benefit approximately 900 households located at seven villages in three sub-districts traversed by Bang Pa Canal.

According to SEA-UEMA Project Director, Dr. Edsel Sajor, the project relies on the participation, negotiation, consensus building and cooperation of communities located close to the canal. It will engage local schools, relevant business groups and local government authorities to ensure the effective management and mitigation of canal water pollution.

AIT Vice President for Research, Prof. Sudip Rakshit, noted the unique nature of the project, saying it involves a bottom-up approach to dealing with the problem of canal pollution. “The project combines social, technical and managerial techniques that are crucial to solving environmental problems,” Prof. Rakshit said.

This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Sajor, who explained that the project utilizes bio-sensors, a novel method for monitoring water quality that involves observing the activities of plants and other organisms in the canal’s water and along its banks. Wastewater treatment technologies will also be set-up for use at the thirty pig farms located along the canal’s length, Dr. Sajor added.

Speaking during the recent project launching ceremonies held at the Bang Pa Canal Conservation Club, Ratchaburi Vice Governor, Vila Sriratthanataku, expressed optimism that the project will benefit the entire province. He noted that it has brought together many different stakeholders, raised community awareness, and linked local communities and government agencies towards solving this long-standing environmental problem.

The vice governor added that the SEA-UEMA Project would provide a good model for managing water canal pollution in other areas of Ratchaburi province. “The project fills the gap for research data needed to resolve this environmental problem,” he said. “The province will be very glad to use this project as the model for managing other canals.”

Local community leader, Wut Visarnthakarn, also welcomed the assistance and expertise that the SEA-UEMA Project will bring to the area. “As a community, we have tried to solve the pollution problem by planting some plants along the canal banks. But this has not been enough. We hope that with the involvement of an international institute like SEA-UEMA and AIT, we will be able to solve the pollution problem in Bang Pa Canal,” he said.

The SEA-UEMA Project is being implemented in collaboration with the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) (http://www.pda.or.th) and the Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology at Thammasat University (SIIT-TU). (http://www.siit.tu.ac.th)

The Southeast Asia Urban Environmental Management Applications Project is a joint initiative of the Asian Institute of Technology and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)(http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca). The project aims to improve urban environmental management policies and good practices in the Southeast Asia region.

Published: 09 Oct 2007

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