Improving wetland functioning and services by developing a communal kaem ling (“monkey cheek”) water retention system at Wieng Nong Lom, Chiang Rai province

15 May 2012 | News story

On 7–8 May 2012, MWD Thailand, together with the villagers of Ban Bha Sak Luang, a village bordering Wieng Nong Lom wetland, and the Thailand Research Fund (TRF), joined hands to build a clay dyke strengthened with local materials such as bamboo and giant mimosa poles. The communal dyke will serve to create a small reservoir – known in Thai as a kaem ling or “monkey cheek” after the animal’s practice of filling its cheeks with food – to retain water from the rainy season and maintain water levels during the dry season. It will supply local consumption needs as well as help to restore wetland vegetation and support the growth of wetland pasture managed as a communal grazing area.

 Wieng Nong Lom wetland covers an area of about 20,000 rai (3200 hectares) in four sub-districts of Chiang Rai province: Jun Jwa Tai, Jan Jwa, Thakhawplaug and Yonok. The wetland is surrounded by a population of 28,500 in 19 villages. About 20% of these people rely on wild capture fisheries, paddy rice cultivation, and buffalo raising. Around 1,500 head of buffalo are grazed on wetland pastures. Water from the wetland also supports crop production, and is used to supply households in the municipal areas of the four sub-districts.

Through a recent process of consultation and dialogue supported by MWD, the challenges and opportunities for wetland management were identified as: a) decreasing flows into the wetland caused by degradation of the surrounding forest due to agricultural intensification and the adoption of mono-cropping of rubber, pineapple and other crops; b) blockage of water flows by private landowners in the upper part of the wetland leading to decreased natural inflows; c) increasing demand for water in the dry season due to the expansion of dry-season rice growing around the wetland; d) degradation of wetland grazing pasture due to a lack of water during the dry season; and e) large inflows during the rainy season that can be stored as reserve water in the dry season.

The kaem ling dyke – 3,000 metres long, 2 metres wide and 1 metre high – was identified as one possible response to these issues. It will also be used as a walkway or nature trail in the wetland during the dry season.