In-Depth: Environment and Energy

Environment - In Depth

While Thailand has enjoyed remarkable growth over the past quarter-century, making the country an economic leader and prominent development partner in the region, this growth has not come without a cost. Rapid development, urbanisation, and the spread of industrial activity have had a serious impact on the country’s people and ecosystems. Much of the country’s forest cover has been lost, while roughly half of Thailand’s rivers and lakes are classified as having poor water quality.

There is overuse of land and water and a lack of planning in certain sectors. Climate change threatens to have a major impact on Thailand, especially its low-lying central region, which is also the most fertile area of the country, and coastal areas which are prone to flooding due to rising sea levels. Consequently, energy conservation, conservation technologies and alternative energy are now some of the highest-profile issues and areas of green activity in Thailand. With a new constitution that mandates improved environmental governance, Thailand is attempting to reverse these trends while decentralising the process of environmental decision-making.


"Water for People"

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UNDP Thailand/Mark S. Cogan

The struggle to balance robust economic growth and environmental conservation is playing out in provinces all over Thailand. While Thailand has experienced remarkable economic growth, some of that has come at the expense of fragile ecosystems—natural economic engines that nurture fish and provide a stunning backdrop for tourism in coastal areas. It’s a familiar middle-income country story and a persistent development challenge. Along Thailand’s two major river basins, the Chao Phraya and the Mae Klong, environmental impacts are putting more and more pressure on fishermen and local farmers—putting a big dent in their wallets and their ability to provide for their families.

UNDP has provided approximately $5 million in small grant initiatives to strengthen local conservation efforts. And the news for local initiatives just got even better. The Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA), a state enterprise took interest in the successes of UNDP-administered Small Grants Programmes (SGP) and teamed up with UNDP under a “Water for People” partnership to help boost water resource management efforts along Thailand’s fragile river basins. 

The partnership provide nearly $700,000 to 20 projects along the two major river basins—funds that will help local communities in Thailand to manage and protect their water resources by funding local projects that not only make it easier to make a living, but have a real impact on government policy, while promoting community-based management, education and public awareness.


Climate Change

Climate Change

Today, Thailand is still vulnerable to climate change.  Millions are affected by drought and flood every year. For the coastal areas of the country, climate change has grave implications for both livelihoods and economic development. Many of the 13 million people living on Thailand’s coasts or 20% of the population rely on coastal resources for their livelihoods, whether from fishing in the rivers or the ocean or making ends meet from tourism.

UNDP works with government partners on a plan to strengthen the capacity of vulnerable areas to deal with changing climate conditions. To do this, UNDP is taking cues from communities who are directly dependent on the sea and coastal natural resources, but have little to no involvement in the planning process. With so many communities spread out over miles of coastline, combined with a number of responsible organizations and varying levels of technical expertise, it is important for climate change policies be coordinated with very specific actions on the ground.  With a lot of help from the Royal Thai Government, UNDP will work with provincial governments to find out what their priorities are and take action to help them reduce their individual climate change risks and figure out the most cost-effective ways of funding climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy

UNDP is also aiming to make the poorest Thai province the most self-sufficient. UNDP Thailand and key partners signed a declaration in 2011, kicking off a transformative new renewable energy project. ‘Promoting Renewable Energy in Mae Hong Son and Nearby Province’ receives $2.7 million in financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It aims to increase the amount of on-grid electricity generated by renewable energy in Mae Hong Son from 17 MW to 27 MW in five years, through strengthening institutional and management of renewable energy, creating financial incentives, enhancing technical capacity on operation and maintenance, as well as promoting the replication and knowledge management. Targeted types of renewable energy include micro-hydro power, biomass, and solar.

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