A Remote-Control Set of Water Supply Pumping in Southern Thailand’s Risky Areas
Provincial Waterworks Authority

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
“A Remote-Control Set of Water Supply Pumping in Southern Thailand’s Risky Areas” Unrest and violence in the South of Thailand or the so-called “Southern Fire” are violent incidents taking place in 4 southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and 4 districts of Songkhla, namely, Jana, Nathawee, Tepa and Sabayoy as a consequence of conflicts in southern border provinces sharing their border with Malaysia, through constant incidents of an ambush, attack, arson, bombing and chaos perpetrated by separatist militants. Though there has been a movement in the form of a need to separate Pattani from Thailand for several decades, such unrest escalated only after 2004 and has violently continued up till now. The Provincial Waterworks Authority of Thailand (PWA) is responsible for providing and distributing water supply to the public in 74 provinces of Thailand, with about 3 million connections. PWA’s administrative structure comprises 10 regional offices and 233 branches. For PWA’s Regional Office 5 taking charge of water supply business in 7 southern provinces of Trang, Satun, Phatthalung, Songkhla, Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, and supervising 20 PWA’s branches, there are around 260,000 connections and PWA’s staff take care of work on water production, services and administration with respect to water supply production and provision of water supply services of high standard and with sufficient amount of water to meet the demand of the public. Due to the unrest in 3 southern border provinces, there arises a problem of PWA’s operation stemming from insecurity for staff in traveling to operate their work in such areas as raw water pumping stations close to rivers far away from communities, which are generally in very risky areas, particularly during the night time. Especially when there is an ambush, attack or bomb planting by separatist militants in the area, such authorities concerned as soldiers and police normally block the road, forbidding people to get in or out of the area, making PWA’s staff unable to travel to a pumping station to perform their work of pumping and water production, causing PWA to be unable to distribute water to consumers, which in turn causes an enormous impact in a wide circle such as to hospitals, public offices, schools and people’s houses.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In the past a control of PWA’s water pump for pumping and distributing water to consumers could be done only by controlling a switch in front of a control box carried out by production staff who had a control and maintenance of the asset and had continuously to keep a close watch on and follow up their performance in order to avoid possible errors or minimize the impact of such errors (if any) as well as be able to solve the problem that may occur as soon as possible. The farther away the raw water pump, water treatment plant or water distribution station from each other, the more difficult to maintenance and managing of them. The frequent occurrence of the uprising and violence in the South of Thailand has had a direct impact on PWA’s water production and distribution, directly affecting water consumers in the area. As a consequence, PWA Regional Office 5’s Production Control Technology Section has conducted a feasibility and appropriateness study to introduce the remote-control communication technology for its work performance so as to solve the aforementioned problem. The idea for this innovation was initially derived from the statement of PWA’s Regional Office 5’s director that “The unrest perpetrators can detonate through a cell phone. Why can’t PWA use a cell phone to control its water supply system?” Accordingly, there has been a research and development of a remote control set of water supply pumping in lower southern Thailand’s risky areas. In this connection, PWA Regional Office 5’s authorities concerned at all levels have had a discussion to make a decision to study a guideline for using a mobile phone to control switching on/off the pumping system. A principal tactic used to implement this project is carried out by the staff of PWA Regional Office 5’s Production Control Technology Section, who have designed, constructed and installed a remote-control set through coordinating and jointly designing in collaboration with PWA’s staff performing their duty in the risky area. This is aimed at maximum benefit for practitioners (staff), apart from the ability to repair, improve or add equipment needed for a remote control, without having to hire a private company to do the job instead. The initial phase of the innovative project started with a collection of pumping system data and water management principle data in each of PWA’s branch concerned, then the staff of Production Control Technology Section designed and modified the system as well as designed and wrote the program of the machine in each station based on the data collected earlier so that it (the machine) definitely met the demand of practitioners in respective areas.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
For the previous production of water supply, PWA’s staff had to travel to different stations in order to control a pumping system in those areas, which was fraught with hardship due to a risk of terrorist acts perpetrated by separatist militants, particularly during the staff’s trip to and fro between their office in town and production or pumping stations located on the outskirts of rural community. Such a problem normally had an adverse impact on the water supply pumping process, resulting in a trouble to people who received PWA’s water supply service. With respect to the research and development of a remote-control system of water supply pumping, a mobile phone signal is used to operate switching on/off the machine for water production instead of the former system in which staff had to go to a raw water pumping station to do their work, which can significantly help reduce risks of traveling in perilous areas.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Main objectives of a remote control system are to efficiently produce and distribute water supply for the public in risky southern border provinces, ensure better management of water supply and decrease a risk of PWA’s staff traveling to operate their work in respective areas. Subsequent to obtaining basic data to be used to solve the problem, PWA’s staff concerned planned on such work as designing, procuring necessary equipment, assembling a remote-control set, installing a remote-control system, and testing and improving it so as to fulfill the objectives established. Problem Analysis A tactic of utilizing a remote-control system of water supply pumping stems from a frequent occurrence of unrest and insurgency in Thailand’s three southern border provinces with Malaysia, causing a risk for PWA’s staff working in the area who have to go to work at the site. For PWA’s water supply production, the staff have duties to maintenance pumping system and keep a close watch on and follow up the amount of water produced. In most case a water production station (a treatment plant) is a long distance from rural communities and in remote area, which is an obstacle for staff’s operation and makes monitoring difficult and risky for them. As a result, PWA’s Regional Office 5 has had a concept of applying mobile phone technology to staff’s operation by inventing “A remote-control set of water supply pumping in risky southern provinces”. Data Investigation And Work Plan It goes without saying that currently, wireless communication technology has been rapidly developed, one of which is cell (mobile) phone technology, which is constantly developed and widely used. Since separatist militants can use a cell phone to detonate a bomb, which generally causes considerable damage to both authorities’ and people’s lives and properties, PWA has an idea to use a cell phone to control its pumping system as well. Thus PWA has begun to study data on a cell phone’s operating system and found that its most significant part is the phone module, which is a central processing instrument of a phone, which PWA has studied its command process and various commands used to operate the pumping work. After deriving preliminary data for problem solving, PWA’s staff concerned began to design tools necessary for the work, assemble a remote-control set, install it, and test and modify the set to achieve the plan formulated. Selection of Instruments Used for Project Implementation Based on the data studied, it is found that major tools used to carry out the remote-control project comprise 1. GSM cell phone module and 2. micro-controller. In this regard, considerable data has been collected and tests conducted in compliance with numerous conditions made. If testing consequences are not satisfactory, working conditions of the phone are modified, including replacing some types of tools with new ones for appropriateness for each location. Performance Test And Conclusion After selecting suitable instruments, they have been assembled into a remote-control set and installed at an actual site to test the set’s operability in a real situation, in line with practitioners’ (staff) requirements. Meanwhile, a newly invented remote-control set has been continuously tested and improved for the system’s stability and high efficiency. Finally, due to steady tests and development of the system, the result is satisfactory to both system designers and staff operating in risky areas, reducing the menace of traveling to and fro between a production station (water treatment plant) and a raw water pumping station (low-pressure pumping station), which is generally far away from each other and from rural communities and is normally in a risky area.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Those who have taken part in designing and implementing the project consist of people in both the government and the private sector as the following. PWA’s authorities concerned include: 1. Director of PWA’s Regional Office 5, as head of the department supervising the policy and strategy. 2. Director of Production System and Water Quality Control Division of PWA’s Regional Office 5, who supervises the development in respect of technology and design for inventing and installing a remote-control set. Two sections of the division, namely, Production Control Technology Section and Maintenance Section, have worked together to implement the project. 3. Director of Accounting and Finance Division of PWA’s Regional Office 5 supervises and allocates a budget for the project. 4. Managers of 6 PWA’s branches located in risky areas. Other government agencies include: 5. Labor Skill Development Institute, Songkhla provided consultancy and a support on additional knowledge in terms of technology aimed at a design and production of a remote-control set. 6. The police and military officers who safeguard PWA’s staff’s lives when the latter travel to risky areas to install and provide maintenance to a remote-control set. 7. Officials of sub-district municipalities and sub-district Administration Organizations in the area, who collaborate with and provide convenience to PWA’s staff operating in the area. 8. The private sector, for instance, a Microsoft shop, Songkhla, as a supplier of materials and tools used to produce a remote-control set. 9. People in the area and water consumers willingly collaborate with PWA’s staff when PWA has to suspend its water distribution during an installation of a remote-control set. They also express their opinions and provide suggestions to PWA’s staff both before and after an installation of a remote-control set, which are used by the latter to improve the project technology.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
As to an implementation of the project, the following resources have been utilized. Financial resources per 1 piece of work  Daily allowance (3 persons x 300 Baht ($ 10.0) x 10 days) 9,000 Baht  Accommodation (3 persons x 600 Baht x 9 nights) 16,200 Baht  Material and equipment cost (15,000 Baht ($ 500.0) x 2 sets 30,000 Baht  Petrol and vehicle cost (Capitalization) 3,000 Baht Total 58,200 Baht ($ 1,940.0) Technical resources  Laptop computer 1 machine  Digital multi-meter 1 set  Tool for electrical work 1 set Personnel resources  Electrical technician 2 persons  Mechanical technician 1 person For the expenses on an installation of the remote-control set at 1 place, a budget of Baht 30,000 ($ 1,000.0) for material and equipment cost was allocated by PWA Headquarters in Bangkok, while daily allowance, and accommodation and petrol costs for staff performing their work in the field were supported by PWA’s Regional Office 5’s budget.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Concerning the benefits of the project, the following accomplishments have been derived. 1. When there is an unrest or insurgency in the area where PWA’s pumping stations or water treatment plants are located, PWA can still provide its water supply service efficiently and continuously, which is beneficial to hospitals and people’s homes in the vicinity and can avoid the service coming to a halt. A survey of satisfaction of people in the problematic area reveals that they are satisfied with the project and welcome it warmly, apart from encouraging it to be implemented in other risky areas too. 2. Risks can be minimized when PWA’s staff can avoid traveling to risky areas in 3 southern provinces at night to do their work, but use a remote-control set instead, which helps reduce the loss of their lives. 3. The cost of a loss of opportunity to produce water supply can be eliminated after an insurgency is committed in the risky area because PWA’s staff can still perform their work by using a remote-control set far away from the troubled scene, instead of risking their lives in traveling to that place to do the work. 4. The project helps boost up the morale of PWA’s staff working in menacing areas in southern Thailand. 5. The project encourages PWA’s staff to learn a novel innovation.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
For an assessment of the project, PWA’s staff concerned have carried out the following activities. 1. Staff of Production Control Technology Section of PWA’s Regional Office 5 pay a site visit once a month to all the 6 PWA’s branches installing a remote-control set of water supply pumping so as to follow up an implementation of the system in risky areas, including the maintenance and follow-up of the progress of the project in the real working environment. It has been found that a new operating system can effectively reduce PWA’s staff’s risks of traveling to respective areas to perform their duties. Staff make a trip to the area only once a day instead of driving back and forth between their offices and pumping stations 4 times a day to operate the machines and maintenance the system there. Furthermore, better water management can be achieved in case of threats of terrorist violence or bombing of power poles close to a low-pressure pumping station, causing a temporary blackout and military officers not allowing PWA’s staff to enter the area. With the old system, PWA cannot produce the water supply during an insurgent crisis, affecting water consumers in a wide circle. However, a new system of remote control through a mobile phone enables PWA to steadily produce its water supply. Staff can make a phone call to the system to switch on or off the pump as usual without having to go to a hazardous area, making possible constant water production and distribution and having no negative impact on water consumers. So far, the project has been of practical use. 2. PWA also makes an appraisal of the project via a questionnaire interview with people and its staff working in the risky area, conducted by staff of Production Control Technology Section of PWA’s Regional Office 5, with a hope to improve the efficiency of technology of a remote-control set of water supply pumping which commands an operation in threatening areas in Thailand’s 3 southern border provinces, helping facilitate the staff’s duty performance and reduce a loss of their lives and property incurred by a trip to the area to do their work.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Since there is a frequent occurrence of acts of violence and insurgency in Thailand’s 3 southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, the police and military officers concerned have generally to cut off a phone signal, which is typically used to detonate a bomb by separatist militants, and to command an operation of water pumping and communications by PWA’s staff, making PWA’s control system unable to work regularly and PWA’s staff unable to travel to the area to install a remote-control set on some occasions due to an untrustworthy incident, causing a delay in an installation of a remote-control system. For a solution to the problem, designers of the system have attempted to devise a new method of transmitting a wireless signal, including testing the necessary equipment in some risky areas. It is found that, with the limitation of distance and different topography of the area, new wireless technology can’t be applied in some areas. In some areas where wireless technology is practical, it is used instead of a phone signal. Besides, PWA has coordinated with and asked for cooperation from people in the areas for data and information so that it can make a plan for an installation of a remote-control set in those areas, apart from telling people about their work, which is intended for water consumers to receive PWA’s continuous and efficient water supply services.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
1. PWA’s water consumers in hospitals, schools and government agencies as well as the general public obtain consistent water supply services despite during an unrest or violence in the area. 2. The following are the numbers of water consumers benefiting from project implementation (Data as at 2013). 2.1 PWA’s Yaha branch, Yala 2,410 connections 2.2 PWA’s Sayburi branch, Pattani 2,429 connections 2.3 PWA’s Ruseo branch, Narathiwat 1,848 connections 2.4 PWA’s Narathiwat, Narathiwat 15,038 connections 2.5 PWA’s Su-ngai Kolok branch, Narathiwat 10,062 connections 2.6 PWA’s Betong branch, Yala 9,574 connections 3. Risks are minimized for PWA’s staff who have to travel to operate their work in risky areas at night. 4. Morale of staff working in perilous areas is boosted up. 5. PWA’s staff are encouraged to learn an innovation and creativity.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The sustainability and transferability of the initiated project are summarized below. 1. For a remote-control set of water supply pumping commanding an operation in Thailand’s southern risky area, the cell phone technology, which is widely used currently, is applied, making the cost of system invention rather low. Other local governments and municipalities taking charge of water supply business can further develop the initiated system on a small amount of budget. 2. The referred remote-control set is typically installed in a building and thus has no impact on the environment both directly and indirectly. 3. PWA has continuously developed its remote-control set operated by a cell phone. Previously, the initiated remote-control set was intended for use in 4 risky southern provinces. Nonetheless, in 2013, the system is extended to the 20 other PWA’s large-scale branches under the supervision of PWA’s Regional Office 5, and is meant to cover all 233 PWA’s branches across the country. A remote-control system is developed to be compatible with PWA’s existing central control system (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition:SCADA), currently used at PWA’s large-scale branches, in order for those branches’ production/distribution system to have collective technical integration.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Based on the development of a cell phone-operated remote-control set since 2010 till now, good collaboration has been received from PWA’s staff of each department concerned, both in 6 PWA’s branches in risky areas and PWA’s Regional Office 5’s various divisions, for example, production system and water quality control division and accounting and finance division. They have worked together as a team with an aim to develop PWA’s water production/distribution technology for its practicality in threatening areas. In addition, PWA has also obtained good cooperation from other government agencies and people in the area because the development of a cell phone-operated remote-control set needs a practicality test in risky areas, and so government agencies concerned such as the police, military, sub-district administration organizations, municipalities and so on have to make a site visit and take care of PWA’s staff’s safety, including a case in which PWA has to declare the suspension of its water distribution in order to test the system by informing people in those areas, who generally give PWA good collaboration.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Provincial Waterworks Authority
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Ms.Pimolluk Kasetkasem
Title:   Head of Management for Create Value Added Section  
Telephone/ Fax:   +(66) 2-551-8428/ +(66) 2-552-6031
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   pimolluk@yahoo.com  
Address:   72 Soi Chaengwattana 1 Chaengwattana Road
Postal Code:   10210
City:   Laksi District
State/Province:   Bangkok

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