LEARNING from mistakes made in Germany, a German institution has now recommended that Thailand adopts a greener approach while fighting floods and drought.
Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) made it clear at a recent dialogue forum that ecosystem-based water management projects in Germany are proving more effective than traditional solid irrigation infrastructure.
“What we try to promote here is to warn [Thailand] not to repeat the same mistakes as Germany,” said Roland Treitler, project director of improved management of extreme events through ecosystem-based adaptation in watersheds (ECOSWat) of GIZ.
He was addressing Thai officials at a forum on German flood protection at the Eastin Grand Hotel in Bangkok.
Treitler said green irrigation projects in Germany had been successful and the institution intended to share this water management technique with Thailand.
GIZ has three pilot projects in Thailand – at Trang River Head in Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Thung Song district, Tha Di River Basin in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Huai Sai Bat River Basin in Khon Kaen, which started last year.
“Because of climate change, flooding occurs more frequently and severely. In Germany, despite our investing billions of euros to build an extensive flood prevention system, we could not really protect the people. Therefore, we revised the whole strategy and came up with the conclusion that the involvement of more ecological infrastructure would help the overall system,” Treitler said.
According to the example of the Elbe River Basin in North Germany, he demonstrated that the river used to have flood prevention dams, but they could not prevent flooding in urban areas.
“What we try to promote here is to warn [Thailand] not to repeat the same mistakes as Germany,” he added.
GIZ consultant Hubert Lohr assured that green measures applied to irrigation systems would be successful in Thailand.
“Thailand benefits from its location in a tropical zone which allows the vegetation to do its service [to the ecosystem] all through the year – unlike in Germany which is situated in a temperate zone,” Hobert explained. “The tropical zone is the best place to apply green measures.”
However, he said, green measures alone cannot solve everything. The green measures and grey measures should be combined together for the best results in irrigation. (Grey measures refer to irrigation structures). “The grey measures are well situated in Thailand, so we are here to promote and foster green measures,” he said.
“On the Thai official side, there are concerns about obstructions in the bureaucracy and whether the high ranks would accept this new water management approach.
“The main hindrance to the implementation of green measures in Thailand is that decision-makers do not understand the approach. They like a quick and immediate result from the original irrigation methods but ignore the ecosystem,” Thongchai Roachanakanan, acting expert on architectural planning of the Public Works and Town & Country Planning Department, said.
Thongchai pointed out that the Thai bureaucratic system allowed politicians to have too much power, which diminished efforts to adopt green measures in the Kingdom, unlike Germany, which balanced power in the bureaucracy system very well.
Royal Irrigation Department’s Water Management Division director Chatchom Chompradist revealed that green measures have never been practised to any extent in Thailand. He felt the new measures could boost the performance of future irrigation projects.
However, Chatchom suggested that to impart green values in the short term to officials used to the old ways of water management would be difficult. “We will have to take a lot effort to introduce the ecosystem-based water management to Thailand,” he said.