Sumernet

Supporting drought management in Huai Sai Bat basin in Thailand through SUMERNET’s “Regional Assessment”

A recent regional assessment workshop of SUMERNET looked at supporting efforts at drought management in Thailand using the Robust Decision Support (RDS) framework.

By Somsanith Mounphoxay

Severe water scarcity conditions across the Mekong Region have compelled policymakers to make long-term plans for drought management. SUMERNET recently organised a workshop on the Robust Decision Support (RDS) workshop for drought and water management on 2 October 2015 in Khon Kaen, Thailand. 

The Khon Kaen workshop was part of the SUMERNET’s regional assessment work using the Robust Decision Support (RDS) framework to support water scarcity management.

The workshop was attended by a range of agencies and people including Thailand's government agencies such as the Department of Water Resources, Royal Irrigation Department, Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation as well as provincial committees, village heads of several villages in the basin, farmers, and university academics and researchers.

How can the Mekong Region’s policy makers become better informed about water scarcity conditions in order to develop and apply effective strategies for management and allocation of limited water resources?  How can they do so in a way that effectively considers changing temporal circumstances, addressing the issue in the short, medium, and long term.

To help address current gaps in policy and literature, researchers from the Mekong regional research network SUMERNET, in collaboration with national and international experts, are currently conducting the regional assessment work “Adapting to multiple and uncertain changes in the Mekong Region: Strategies for today and a +4C world”.

The regional assessment uses the Robust Decision Support (RDS) as a “decision support tool” to provide overall guidance for example on planning scenarios and designing policy and institutional options.

Apart from the case study in Huai Sai Bat basin, the regional assessment is also looking at four other basins in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam. These assessments aim to support decision makers in their attempts to develop effective and informed policy. The regional assessment uses RDS as a “decision support tool” to provide overall guidance for rexample on planning scenarios and designing policy and institutional options.

The Huai Sai Bat basin study is a collaborative effort among the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Asia Centre, Mahasarakham University and Rajamangala University of Technology Isan.

The Huai Sai Bat basin has been selected under previous studies such as Exploring Northeast Thailand Futures led by SEI and ECOBASE led by the Rajamangala University of Technology Isan and Mahasarakham University. The SUMERNET study under RDS builds on these earlier basin studies to help policy makers and key stakeholders determine the management options under complexity and uncertainties while also considering existing policies and practices.

The Huai Sai Bat basin was chosen as a pilot area as it is facing problems of both floods and droughts in recent years. Moreover, rapid land-use changes coupled with groundwater extraction for vegetable cropping is worsening water scarcity problems. The basin was also selected because of the readily available data from other studies and projects.

Mr. Jarus Pensirisomboon, Director of Irrigation Project in Khon Kaen emphasized the importance of effective and sustainable drought management for the Huai Sai Bat basin and undeurstanding and dealing with many uncertainties.

The workshop participants discussed how there is no long term drought management plan in Thailand. Most plans that exist are for short term action plans, and previous drought management practices have been less inclusive of water-users’s perspectives especially of farmers and local communities.

The workshop participants were introduced to the Water Evaluation and Planning System (WEAP) model to help identify different management options for water scarcity conditions. The key partners will receive training in using WEAP from SEI and another workshop is planned to further discuss the findings in May 2016.

Main picture credit: The Nation, Thailand. 

The author Ms. Somsanith Mounphoxay from Lao PDR recently concluded her internship with SEI Asia.