Accepted paper:

Emerging water crises and future climate uncertainty: actors at the interface of institutional and infrastructure complexity in NE Thailand

Authors:

Richard Friend (University of York)
Pakamas Thinphanga (Thailand Environment Institute)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on the case of water managers confronting climate variability, we argue that it is through an analysis of the interface of actors, institutions and physical infrastructure that climate vulnerability can be better understood, and conversely, that climate resilience might be strengthened.

Paper long abstract:

This paper uses the emerging crises in water management in North East Thailand as a case study to examine the effectiveness of existing institutional structures and processes to adapt to an uncertain future climate. We argue that it is through an analysis of the interface of actors, institutions and physical infrastructure that climate vulnerability can be better understood, and conversely, that climate resilience might be strengthened. This research has global significance as case studies of emerging water crises provide valuable insights into future vulnerabilities and the Thailand experience speaks to similar challenges across the global South. Our findings illustrate that state water managers, on the front line of dealing with climate variability, are constrained by the interaction of infrastructure that was designed for different times and needs, and of institutional structures and processes that have emerged through the interplay of often competing organisational remits and agendas. Water management is further constrained by the ways in which information and knowledge are generated, shared, and then applied. Critically the research finds that there is no explicit consideration of climate change, but rather universally-held assumptions that patterns of water availability will continue as they have in the past. Where policy responses are advocated they are largely in terms of infrastructure-based solutions. Significantly, there is no long-term planning that could be termed adaptive, but rather, a responsive approach that moves from crisis to crisis between seasons and across years.

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