In September, powerful waves of the South China sea batter the shores of the Chanthaburi Province, three hours drive from Bangkok, but in the village of Ban Hua Laem in Sanamchai Sub-district, sheltered behind the rocky headland in a mangrove fringed bay, 70 families live the same simple existence as they have done for generations based on what the sea provides for them.
Uncle Surachai, a 58 year old fishermen who was born in Baan Hua Laem and has spent all his life there, said the village has hardly changed in his life time. He loves his home because it is still easy to make a living as a fisherman with the healthy mangroves and productive waters producing plenty of crabs and fish for them to harvest, especially the blue swimming crab. He doesn’t have to go far out to sea and can set his nets and return home each time, without needing to stay out on the sea overnight. He has two children and three grandchildren, all of whom still live in the village. “I am happy that my family has been able to stay together and earn their living in their own home, and have not had to travel away to Bangkok to find jobs like so many other people in different parts of Thailand” he said.
One of his neighbours is Grandma Hong – she is in her 70s (she is not sure exactly how old) but she still regularly goes fishing in her own small boat. Today she is cleaning a ray – “we don’t catch these so often” she said happily. She also stated that she lived in this area for her whole life – but Uncle Surachai provided more precise information that she originally came from the other side of the bay.
It seems like life in Baan Hua Laem could continue like this for an eternity to come. But Uncle Surachai noted that the non-stop 24 hour rain we have just experienced is not normal. Could this abnormal rainfall pattern be a sign of a changing climate? - how might that affect the way of life and livelihood of these people and their local resources? and what can be done about it? These are questions that a new EU funded IUCN and SDF project on building resilience to climate change impacts will be trying to address here and elsewhere in Chanthaburi and Trat provinces of Thailand, as well as in the neighbouring countries of Cambodia and Vietnam
Story by Dr Robert Mather