Linking Land and Water Resource Management in Southern Thailand: Viewing Sustainable Resource Solutions Through a Double Lens
Abstract: Global demands for water continue to rise while at the same time, the availability of reliable water resources are deteriorating. As 70% of the world’s human consumption of water resources is directed towards agricultural production, the need to improve water use efficiency and sustainability in these areas is of utmost importance. In order to tackle these issues, the concept of “Integrated water resource management” (IWRM) has been developed and is currently the most globally accepted and widely implemented strategy for attaining equitable, efficient and sustainable water management. Due to the extensive adoption of IWRM, the need to examine the successes and challenges of this strategy is warranted. This case study, which is set in an agricultural river basin in southern Thailand, will address the question of how government policies in Thailand encouraging palm oil production are influencing the ability of rural communities to effectively manage their water resources. While the Thai government has formally embraced IWRM, its effectiveness in coordinating land and water resource management in the nation across all levels of government is still in question. For many cases of IWRM, one of the most significant obstacles facing practitioners is that of developing full and effective stakeholder engagement. Although this term has been understood as a vital component for IWRM success, the disconnection between ‘ground-up’ local community resource management efforts and ‘top-down’ higher level governmental policies still persist. Through the analysis of this case using Institutional Theory and in particular, the “Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) Framework”, the results of this study demonstrate that efforts to enhance stakeholder engagement could benefit from a deeper understanding of the local level institutional processes that are at the core of rurally based natural resource management strategies.
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