Thailand, Agriculture, and Water Cap and Trade

agriculture, asia, water trade

The people of Thailand are gearing up for general elections for prime minister on December 23, 2007. This is an exciting occurrence, as political activities were outlawed in Thailand after a major coup d’etat on September 19, 2006.

While preparations for the elections occur, discussions abound regarding the future of the economy in Thailand. As stated on the Bangkok Post Daily, it cannot be ignored that the agricultural sector in Thailand currently supports a large part of the economy. Thailand exports a large percentage of their agricultural products to the global market. But, the author of this article states,

There may be a time when Thailand must keep its agricultural produce within the country for food security, especially to offset drought. If at some time in the future Thailand cannot feed its own people and must depend on food imports, it will have to fork over a hard-earned foreign exchange advantage to buy ever more expensive food, and there may be little money left for development. Therefore, said Nongnuch, Thailand should never abandon its determination to maintain food security, and always produce at least enough to feed its population.

Firstly, I must exclaim, I do not see how maintaining food supplies within one’s country would offset drought. But, this issue does bring up conversation concerning globalization, food supply, and water availability.

With increasing recognition of water shortages in agricultural sectors throughout the world, it has been suggested that a re-organization of food production could be a viable option to reduce stress on water supplies. For example, growing less water-intensive crops in arid locations, while growing water-intensive crops in areas with high precipitation. This kind of global re-organization of the food market would require extensive participation by political entities throughout the world to ensure trade of needed foods sources be conducted equitably.

However, current global trade is not conducted in a fair manner because large entities often have an unfair advantage over small entities, especially with the implementation of such trade polices like NAFTA and CAFTA, etc. That leads one to think that implementation of some manner of water cap and trade system could assist in a global reorganization of the agricultural sector.

In summary, if this new system of agriculture could be maintained, it has the possibility to provide sustainable agricultural commodities while lessening our dependence on water supplies. But, the likelihood of the imminent occurrence of this type of paradigm shift is nil to none.

Globalization is happening, we might as well use it for good.

-as succinctly stated by my close friend.

Three Gorges Dam: Displacement and Environmental Problems Acknowledged

asia, dam

Most have heard of the Three Gorges Dam (長江三峽大壩), a hydroelectric dam constructed in China to create a massive reservoir on the Yangtze River. The project when finished will flood an area of approximately 400 square miles. The dam, currently partially operational, is expected to be fully operational in 2009 after final generators are installed.


Above Photo: Mr Frosted on flickr.com.

A recent article distributed by the Associated Press on October 12, 2007, states many more individuals will have to move from the region by the year 2020.

The reservoir already has forced 1.4 million people out of their homes amid criticism the project has wreaked ecological havoc and forced people to move to places where they cannot make a living. On Friday, state media and the region’s local government signaled rising concern over the dam’s impact, saying as many as several million more people would have to be moved from areas adjacent to the reservoir in a form of “environmental migration.”

This recent announcement of an increase in displacement of citizens from the Yangtze region comes too soon after a report was issued in September 2007 highlighting major environmental problems caused by the dam including erosion, sedimentation, and possible water-quality problems.

This article, from the Guardian Unlimited in the UK, summarizes the dire statements made by public officials on environmental problems that could plague the area. However, as stated on Planet Ark, Chinese Officials are opposing these statements saying environmental effects were exaggerated by the media. The bad press is probably not such a good thing when you are trying to run a country. Check out the International Rivers Network webpage for more information about environmental issues and the Three Gorges Dam.

Asia-Pacific Water Forum and 1st Asia-Pacific Water Summit

asia

The Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF) was conceived during planning processes by countries in Asia for the 4th World Water Forum at Mexico City in March 2006. Because of the severe shortages of water in Asia and political-economic diversity in the region, there was a need for a regional planning group. The APWF was officially launched on September 27, 2006.

The goal of the APWF is to contribute to sustainable water management in order to achieve the targets of the MDGs in Asia and the Pacific by capitalizing on the region’s diversity and rich history of experience in dealing with water as a fundamental part of the human existence. Specifically, the APWF shall champion efforts aimed at boosting investments, building capacity, and enhancing cooperation in the water sector at the regional level and beyond.

A portion of this goal intends for the APWF to capitalize on the region’s history of dealing with water. What about the massive water shortages faced in Asia due to misguided irrigation and damming projects? Additionally, the goal states the APWF “shall champion efforts aimed at boosting investments.” Would these projects be sustainable and in alignment with providing drinking water and sanitation to all people?

Meanwhile, the APWF will hold the 1stAsia-Pacific Water Summit in Osaka, Japan in December 2007. This annual event will give any of the 47 member countries the chance to showcase water policy that has achieved the above-stated goal. It could be interesting to follow the Summit this year to see what types of progress (and what views of progress) members of the APWF are presenting.

Will micro-financing or micro-franchising increase the use of water purification in homes in developing countries?

asia, technology, water treatment

This is a question faculty and students from University of North Carolina School of Public Health, the Kenan-Flagler Business School, and the Kenan Institute-Asia will attempt to answer. They will be working primarily in the Mekong Subregion of Asia. It is a main goal of the project to make available household water filters to those with no access to clean water in the home. Another aim of this research is to find a way to increase the long-term sustainability, viability, and use of these technologies. Micro-financing and micro-franchising are two models being evaluated for increasing long-term sustainability.

One way we hope to enable these technologies to reach scale is to provide small loans to people who wouldn’t qualify for conventional loans, and help them franchise small businesses. We’ve found that giving the filters or other technologies away is not sustainable and doesn’t really promote the continued use of the technology. We believe we can find models that will be successful in getting point-of-use (home) water purification products into the homes of people who need them

It will be interesting to follow the progress of this research in the Mekong Sub-region. For more information on this research, please see the press release issued by UNC.