The principles of His Majesty’s water management theories are relatively simple and straightforward, and based on the logic of nature.
According to His Majesty, water management for drought prevention and flood prevention can be broken down into four phases. First is the conservation of watershed areas from the mountain tops to mid-slope through the building of check dams across small water channels to reduce erosion and reduce the speed of water flow during heavy rainstorms, as well as to maintain soil moisture that in turn encourages plant growth.
Next is the plantation of commercial forests on mountains from mid-slope to the foothills. These are for fuel or construction purposes, or various fruit orchards. His Majesty also advocates the building of water reservoirs in this area to ensure sufficient water supplies throughout the year.
The third area is the main agricultural area, where dams should help to intercept rain water or mountain run-off to ensure sufficient water supply for agricultural purposes throughout the year. Dams help to maximize the use of water, instead of letting good water flow away into canals and rivers into the sea. They also help prevent flooding in the surrounding areas and neighbouring provinces.
Last, but not least, is the treatment of wastewater before it flows into the sea. His Majesty advocates water treatment through natural methods with the help of aeration and plants such as various grasses, weeds and mangroves.
All the above, however, need to follow certain criteria. They have to suit the geographical makeup of the surrounding areas, they need to take into consideration the natural water supplies in the area, as well as the socio-economic makeup of the local inhabitants. Any water management project should not benefit a certain group at the advantage of another group, despite the feasible investment gains. There are several water management concepts now well-known by the names coined by His Majesty the King. Among these are the “Monkey’s Cheek” projects and “Good Water Chases Bad”, as well as the Artificial Rain Project.
The Monkey’s Cheek Project
As the floods of 2011 have shown, the low-lying conditions of Thailand’s central alluvial plains meant that water drained away very slowly. Furthermore, canals and rivers had become shallow due to accumulated sediment, while weeds like water hyacinth further blocked the flow of water.
This is a recurring problem that his Majesty the King addressed though what the called the “Monkey’s Cheek” or Kaem Ling project, based on his observations of nature.
“A monkey will, if you throw a banana, open its mouth and swallow the banana whole and keep it in his cheek. A money can keep almost an entire bunch of bananas inside its cheeks. Only later will the monkey take the bananas out, chew and swallows them.” HM the King
The three principles of the Kaem Ling Project are : identifying sites to serve as storage reservoirs and diverting water into them, building water-ways leading to the water storage reservoirs and draining water out of these reservoirs continually.
During times of flooding, water should be diverted from the Chao Phraya River, or other main waterways that run through Bangkok and other densely populated areas in central Thailand, towards canals on the east or west coast near the sea. The canals will retain water like monkey’s cheek during the high tide. When the sea level finally drops below the water levels in the canals, the sluice gates are opened to allow water to flow out to sea by gravity. In turn, the gates prevent water from flowing back into the canals when the tide rises.
Good Water Chases Bad
This is a simple water treatment principle, which uses fresh and clean water to flush out polluted water.
“Water levels and drainage in Bangkok should be managed according to local conditions. I suggest two plans for such management: The first is to be adopted in the monsoon to prevent flooding , while the second plan is designed to deal with water pollution in the dry season by flushing out from the canals. Both plan should be based on the force of gravity to reduce expenses for the control of water levels in the canals.” – HM the King
The Chao Phraya River, which is the main lifeblood of Bangkok’s central plains, is fed by several rivers and canals. To help reduce pollution in the water, sluice gates at canal entrances are opened at high tide to allow water from the Chao Phraya to flow in. During low tide, the water from the canals will drain back into the river, creating a rotational flushing system that will gradually clean up the stagnant water in the canals.
Furthermore, the Prem Prachakon canal is integral in helping to divert water from the Chao Phraya River and distributing it to other canals in Bangkok. His Majesty the King has instructed that this canal be regularly dredged and weeds removed to allow a clear and swift flow of water to help reduce pollution.
This is arguably the most well-known of His Majesty the King’s royal initiatives with regards to water supplies. As early as the 1950s, His Majesty the King began looking to artificial rain as solution for persistent drought problems, but it wasn’t until 1969 that the Royal Rain Project was established to provide water for cultivation.
“Rainmaking is like a warship. You fire the missile far, then close in, to properly hit the target. Since we have facilities for rainmaking we should be sure to use them properly to get rain in the right places.” – HM the King
The project was a case of trial and error, since it was dependent on several conditions, including air humidity, sufficient cloud mass and the suitable amount of chemicals – non – toxic and environment-friendly chemicals, devised by the King himself – seeded over the clouds to trigger the release of water vapour. The Royal Rain Project was most active during the late 1970s and 1980s, helping to revive fruit orchards and raise water levels in dam catchment areas for irrigation and electricity generation. Each time, His Majesty closely followed the rainmaking operations, giving advice and guidelines to officials involved.
His Majesty has also published a pictorial book, Royal Rainmaking Textbook, designed on his personal computer, to teach the rainmaking process. Both the royal rainmaking project and the Royal Rainmaking textbook won the Gold Medal with Mention at Brussels Eureka 2001, held in Belgium in November 2001.
Thailand has also welcomed officials from Indonesia, Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka, who travelled to the Kingdom to observe rainmaking techniques to benefit farmers in their respective countries.
In 1997, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) presented an award to His Majesty in recognition of this strong support for meteorological and operational hydrology.
The Royal Thai Government also honoured His Majesty in 2002 with the title of Father of Royal Rainmaking”, and Nov 14 has been designated “Father of Royal Rainmaking Day” to mark the start of the project in 1955.
In 2005, the European Patent Office issued a patent titled “Water Modification by Royal Rainmaking Technology” to His Majesty the King, a recognition which served to mark the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his Accession to the Throne in 2006.
NB: With kind permission of Bangkok Post, this article is taken from Bangkok Post, December 5, 2012, p.4.