His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand, on his long-term vision for the country’s water resource management

His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand

Thailand has all the necessary resources that we can utilise to contribute to the prosperity and security of our country. The key issue is to know how to use those resources properly and wisely; that is, excessive use should be limited as much as possible. Only usage that is guided with care and prudence, as well as based on understanding causality, will ensure a real and sustainable benefit for our nation, whether at present or in the future. If water and environmental problems are properly solved through pursuing an encompassing philosophy to sustainable development, other consequent developments concerning agricultural techniques, industry, trading or finance will certainly be possible.

Water is not only the vital factor for mankind but for all living creatures, as it is the medium and the vital element of life. It is also true that even those non-living things also need water or otherwise they cannot exist in their original form. For instance, the components of crystals cannot form crystals without water. This is why irrigation projects are always among the first things in mind when we look at new developments. Nature surrounds us all in many forms – the land, forest, river, ocean and air. These are not just beautiful things to enjoy, but they are incredibly vital to our continued existence. If we protect them well, the next generation’s future will be secured.

The major cause of the recent floods is the fact that we built our houses on wetlands. Therefore, we must learn from the wrath of nature, and we must gain the knowledge needed to harness nature’s power for our own benefit. If we are able to find a way to keep floodwater in reserve and use it when it is needed, it will be a double boon.

Similarly, preserving our forests is an important tool in the battle against flooding. This is because healthy forests assist with soil preservation. A mountain lacking forests is likely to be corroded when heavy rains come because the soil at the surface will be flushed away swiftly. This is a key concept of conservation and irrigation. If we fail to preserve our forests, soil corrosion will bring about many problems, with floods among these.

When the prospect of the kaem ling (literally “monkey’s cheek” in Thai) technique for flood prevention was first introduced, the project was greeted with uncertainty and apprehension. But, since awareness surrounding this technique has been heightened and its efficacy has been proven, it is now widely employed in Thailand. The project’s name comes from the observation that just as a monkey needs big cheeks to store food, we also need retention areas for floodwater. As the water from the north of the country finds its way to Bangkok every year, a series of reservoirs, canals, dykes and water gates enable excess capacity to be used for irrigation or directed out to sea. This has helped Bangkok mitigate the devastating impact of floods in recent years. Similarly, this has enabled other cities and communities to employ this strategy to great effect.

The important principle is to maintain water for consumption, including drinking, planting or other purposes. Without electricity, people can survive, but without water it is not possible for humans to survive. This is why we must not distinguish between sustainable development and human behaviour. Individuals and communities must take responsibility for their actions as well as their consumption.

Therefore, it is important to maintain adequate resources. The term “adequate” indicates that water is being maintained at a sufficient level to meet domestic consumption needs and avoid the interruption of any activity in this country.

By pursuing efforts to reach these goals, we will work towards the effective implementation of a water resource management strategy for the country. Consequently, this will enhance the livelihoods of our people in addition to the economic productivity of our nation. – Adapted from His Majesty’s speeches from 1989, 1986, 1978, 1976 and 1969.

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Bhumibol Adulyadej

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