On 10 May MWD Thailand brought together 20 women and 20 men from indigenous and ethnic groups from the upper and lower basin of the Maechan River, in northern Thailand to discuss their concerns on water and natural resource management in the Maechan sub-basin.
The community members are highly dependent on the health of the local river systems for industries such as freshwater fisheries and livestock farming. Participants emphasized problems with dredging of rivers and wetlands and the rate of reclamation of these areas by development projects, such as road construction.
In addition, a high level of concern was expressed regarding new construction that is impacting areas that have traditionally been cultivated as rice paddies. Rice production requires good drainage and irrigation, and there are concerns the construction work will block the natural river flow and decrease the possibility of future rice production.
Some women also raised concern about the degraded condition of the forests in the watershed area and how the use of agricultural chemicals in the upper level of the watershed may lead to the decline in the quality of food resources from both forest and river sources.
The group decided that families from the lower basin area will join together with communities upstream to plant trees and help rehabilitate the forests in their shared watershed area. In addition, they decided to campaign for alternative agricultural practices that reduces the use of harmful chemicals.
The meeting was organized in collaboration with the Land Development Office in Chiang Rai and the Tambon (community) level administrations.