Thailand and Germany kick-start efforts to increase the climate resilience of communities at Sakaekrang river basin

Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

The Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH organised a launch of their joint project activities under the Thai-German Climate Programme - Water (TGCP – Water) in the Sakaekrang River basin in Uthaithani province. Representatives from the German Embassy, ONWR, Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), GIZ, provincial government agencies, members of the Sakaekrang River Basin Committee and communities joined the event held at Nong Chang Withaya School.

Climate change is affecting weather patterns and leading to more extreme events such as heavy rainfall and drought. With water being a vital resource for a multitude of uses, adaptation to climate change in water resources management is crucial. TGCP-Water supports Thailand in its national policy development, sub-national implementation, monitoring and evaluation, financing and international cooperation to achieve water security, reduce flood and drought risks and manage extreme weather events.

Dr. Somkiat Prajumwong, Secretary-General to ONWR expressed that "Thailand and Germany are cooperating under the Thai-German Climate Programme. For the water sector, there are 5 components, namely 1) national policy development 2) sub-national implementation 3) monitoring and evaluation 4) climate finance and 5) international cooperation. Today's event emphasized the participatory nature at the sub-national level to integrate climate change adaptation knowledge into water resource management at river basin level where ONWR regional offices are taking the lead. This aims to create water security, reduce the effects of floods, drought and abrupt changes in weather pattern. Moreover, ONWR also implements a Strategic Environmental Assessment in Sakaekrang river basin since the river basin still has challenges and dispute on how to develop watershed, upstream and downstream areas. The study will be a foundation for a participatory development framework.

In his opening remarks at the event, Charge d'affaires a.i., German Embassy Bangkok in Bangkok, Mr. Jan Scheer expressed, "Global challenges such as climate change need strong partnerships. It is a privilege for us to stand side by side with Thailand to enhance climate resilience in its water management and reduce the impacts of flood and droughts in the communities along the Sakaekrang River."

Mr. Tim Mahler, Country Director of GIZ Thailand and Malaysia reiterated, "Adapting to climate change requires a holistic approach that incorporates all stakeholders to work together. Based on GIZ's experience, ecosystem-based adaptation solutions have great potential to benefit communities in coping with extreme events. Ecosystem services are an integral part of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), especially when facing the impacts of climate change in the water sector."

After the opening ceremony, Dr. Somkiat Prajumwong, Secretary-General of ONWR, Mr. Narong Rakroi, Governor of Uthaithani province, Mr. Tim Mahler, Country Director of GIZ Thailand and Malaysia and Dr. Natthanich Asvapoositkul, Director of Climate Change Management and Coordination Division, ONEP, discussed "Ways Forward for Water Resources Management in Sakaekrang River Basin". They highlighted that technical and institutional capacity building for the integration of aspects of climate change into water sector planning are key for sustainable water resources management. The event also presented a public exhibition displaying the potential impacts of climate change on the Sakaekrang River basin and providing information on key concepts like climate-sensitive IWRM. Satellite imagery and a live drone operation showed how the land-use and environment of the Sakaekrang river basin has changed over time and demonstrated a new method of data collection. The participants, students and local residents took part in a climate change quiz and wall painting to express their ideas on the future of "Beautiful Sakaekrang".

Sakaekrang river basin and Yom river basin have been chosen to pilot the concept of a climate-sensitive IWRM. It is being introduced as a means to incorporate climate change adaption into planning processes at the river basin scale. Ultimately, a climate-sensitive IWRM shall be integrated into the river basin planning process of all 22 river basins in Thailand.

The Secretary-General of ONWR added that "ONWR, as a lead agency for water resources management under the Prime Minister Office, perceives the need to have an integrated planning that responds to the community's needs first. We are not only focusing on mega-infrastructure projects but small and local projects that could create impact and complete the picture of Thailand water resource management system. ONWR is currently searching for best practices of Thai local wisdom and knowledge to be disseminated at international level.

The TGCP-Water is funded by the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). It aims to enhance climate resilience and sustainable water resources management in Thailand by integrating climate change adaptation including ecosystem-based adaptation solutions into national water resources management strategies and plans. In its sub-national implementation, it supports climate-sensitive IWRM and ecosystem-based adaptation solutions into the processes of water management and river basin planning. It also focuses on promoting a participatory approach among diverse stakeholders including local communities and supporting institutional mechanisms aligned to the work of the River Basin Committees and the entities that have been assigned with development of master plans for river basin planning as set forth by the 2018 Water Resources Act. The collaboration under TGCP-Water started in early 2018 and will continue until December 2021.

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