A Research Companion to Water Transitions around the Globe
Edited by Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink
Chapter 8: Averted Crises, Contested Transitions: Water Management in the Upper Ping River Basin, Northern Thailand
Louis Lebel, Po Garden, Nutthawat Subsin and Sakkarin Na Nan 8.1 Introduction Fundamental changes in the content of policy, how policy decisions are made and how management functions are organized have been theorized and explained in many different ways (Meijerink and Huitema, Chapter 2, the theoretical introduction to this volume). This chapter is about four such transitions in water policy in Thailand and how they played out in the Upper Ping River basin in northern Thailand (Map 8.1). In it we explore the roles and strategies of individuals, from a conventional interest in leaders, experts and networks through to an examination of the more diffuse agency of relatively independent actors driven by shared circumstances and objectives. The national significance of the Upper Ping arises from its strategic position, distinct history and ecological changes. The Ping is the largest tributary of the Chao Phraya (Map 8.1). The Bhumipol Dam, constructed in 1964, marks the lower end of the Upper Ping and is still the largest storage dam and hydropower source within Thailand. In Thailand national water policy has for decades been driven by elite interests centred in the capital, Bangkok. Dams on the main tributaries of the Chao Phraya River were built and operated to produce electricity for urban–industrial development and regulate monsoonal-varying flows for flood protection and irrigation of the surrounding central plains (Maiklad, 1999; Molle, 2007b). Behind the scenes a centralized technical bureaucracy diligently pursued visions in which it brought standardization and orderliness to diverse locally managed irrigation...
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