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Thachin-Maeklong Research Proeject
 
Integrative Research Network for Comprehensive Development of the Thachin and Maeklong River Basins
 
Background

The Thachin and Maeklong River Basins represent two of the twenty-five key watersheds in Thailand. They cover 8 provinces in western part of Thailand, inhabited by about 1 million households or 3.8 million people. Each of the river basins has traditionally had an abundance
of natural resources. Today, the most important activities in the two river basins are agriculture, industry, commerce and tourism. In addition to such economic activities, these areas have a long history and a rich unique culture. It is within this context that sustainable development within the Thachin and Maeklong River Basins should be considered.

However, in recent years, rapid industrialization and intensive agricultural production have become significant, in line with the need for Thailand to produce goods for the export market. This has had impact on both the environment and on the resources of the Thachin and Maeklong River Basins. Water pollution is one major problem affecting many aspects of peoples’ lives, as well as the natural environment.

 
In response to these problems and based on the collected experience gained from collaboration with local communities and civil network, the Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies, supported by Mahidol University, the Thai Government and Private Organizations has developed an Area-based Research Network under the name of "Integrative Research Network for Comprehensive Development of the Thachin and Maeklong River Basins".
 
Objectives
To develop a research network as an “Independent Knowledge Management Node” and to develop baseline data and information technology for development;
 
To create participatory research approaches; and,
 
To support grassroots civil society groups which are active in the river basins and incorporated them into the network.
 
Collaboration
In 2001, the project laid out the strategic framework for the construction of a network involving researchers and civil society. Researchers from as many as 12 faculties of Mahidol University have been involved in this ongoing dialogue, namely the Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies, ASEAN Institute for Health Development, Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development, Institute for Population and Social Research, Faculty of Nursing, Faculty of Medical Technology, National Institute for Child and Family Development, Institute of Science and Technology for Research and Development, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, and Faculty of Medicine at Ramathibodi Hospital. This cooperation extends to other universities and organizations, namely Kasetsart University, Thammasat University, Silpakorn University, the Pollution Control Department, the Office of the National Water Resources Committee, the Royal Thai Navy, the Public Works Department, the Royal Irrigation Department and the Department of Land Development. Thus far, at least fifteen civic groups participate in this network.
 
Strategies
Targetted Research: Support for participatory research involving an interdisciplinary approach in various areas including: Database of Information for Development; Change, Resistance and Cultural Revitalization; Sustainable Food Cycle Development; Water Resources Management; Learning Network, Policy and Peace Development; and Public Health Development.
 
Capacity Building for Research: Support mechanisms and capacity building for the research, including methods development, for researchers and communities.
 
Graduate Studies and Young Scholar Development: Support for graduate students to take part in research and for development of networks among these young scholars.
 
Capacity Building of Local Community and Civil Society: Support communities in research and development for community planning, as well as for sharing and learning within a wider network.
 
Communication for change: Support the role of the media and identify mechanisms for communication among the local networks.
 
Network Administration and management : Provide a mechanism to facilitate the entire program and lead to a sustainable and meaningful "Independent Knowledge Management Node".
 
Outcome
The major emphasis of this project is make use of an interdisciplinary approach, where researchers join hands with civil society. Thus, a cooperation network is developed linking researchers within any one institution with those in other institutions, as well as with civic groups within the Thachin-Maeklong area. The aim is to apply research and the knowledge acquired to cause change, to construct social power and to find creative and peaceful ways
for developing and managing natural resources.
 
The research undertaken so far has already resulted in a number of important outcomes:
 
A body of knowledge has been built up in science and technology, social sciences and humanities, public health and quality of life. This knowledge has been disseminated on the internet, in academic seminars and by articles published for the public.
 
A new research paradigm has been built for new generations of researchers from diverse institutes and other authorities, where innovative research is promoted by integrating all stakeholders in participatory research.
 
Improvements have been made in quality of life of local communities and in the conservation of their natural resources.
 
Academic services, training, and health examination have been provided for local communities.
 
The local community has been empowered, which should increase their potential for development.
 
For further information : http://www.en.mahidol.ac.th/eng/research/thachin.html
 

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