Community-based Waste Management in KohKha Municipality, Lampang, Thailand
Kohkha Municipality

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Located in Northern Thailand, Kohkha was among the 3,000 or more small-size, sub-district (Tambon) municipalities in Thailand. Like most of growing urbanization towns in Thailand, Kohkha was faced with a wide-range of problems, including rural poverty, water pollution on our main river running through out town, natural forest resource degradation, and solid waste. On governance, we were often seen as being disinterested in people participation. Of all multi-layer problems, our first attempt was to take up solid waste management, as it was clear that it was an immediate and community concern. We undertook data survey and found that, if nothing was done, Kohkha municipality would no longer have enough dumping space for solid waste within the next 7-10 years. Within 4.74 square kilometer municipality jurisdiction, wastes were estimated at over 10 tons/day, 3,723 tons/year.Added up with the cause of transport to the dumping site rented from state’s property, an official estimate of Green House Gases release was nearly 40 tons per year. Solid waste problem had caused the municipality an enormous fiscal constraint: renting a dumping and land-filled site from state’s property, and daily transportation to the site. We would certainly need to purchase new piece of land for land-filled site. But it would cost the municipality up to 2 million Thailand Baht (US$ 66,667) and would likely meet with strong opposition from the public where the site was located. What was worse was that the current dumping site had created a hotspot for pollution prone to a number of epidemic diseases.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
We used a concept referred to as “turn-wastes-to-goods”, starting at individual households. We created a people’s learning platform at the office, organizing monthly dialogue known locally as “Kwuang Pha-ya”, a traditional meeting forum. Facts and data were presented at the meeting, most of new ideas and initiatives came out of this, as people were made to feel that every household was part of the problem and of the solution.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
An overall and visible impact was that of a drastic reduction of the amount of solid wastes needed for the municipality to collect, transport, and dump. The first three management strategies had contributed to the well-being of low-income families. They were organized to work in groups. A group working on soil worms to decompose biological degradable wastes, consisting mainly of small-holding farmers, were able to produce natural fertilizers for their own farm and home-garden uses. This helped reducing their expenditure on the normally used chemical fertilizers and therefore produced more safety agricultural produce for their own consumption and for the market. This particular technique was soon gained popularity, leading to a new market for the sale of soil works exclusively. Next, women and elderly formed a group which focused on making recyclable wastes into household furnishers and utilities. As for wood debris and plastic material, they were collected and sold to factories nearby for energy use by the re-use group, consisting mostly of youths waiting for employment.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Community monthly gathering, known locally as kwuang pha-ya, literally meant “platform of collective thoughts and wisdom”, was considered an organizational innovation in managing complex economic and environment problems. It was effective not only for solid waste management but also in other areas related to the quality of life of the people who lived within the municipality boundary. It was a space traditionally familiar to them, and the people felt free to voice their concerns, submit their proposals, and to expect helps and cooperation from within. The municipality role was to prepare facts-and-figures of truth and occasionally bring technical experts from the outsides, particularly from regional and provincial higher research and education institution located in the province of Lampang and within the northern region. This innovative learning platform help building trust and confidence among the community people themselves and between them and the municipality personnel. We now know how to face problems, no matter how big and complicated they are, as long as we can keep “a platform of collective thoughts and wisdoms” alive.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Key stakeholders could be divided into 3 groups: 1. Households: There were 1,370 households inhabiting the municipality jurisdiction, all of whom produced wastes. Formerly happy with a modest collection fees, they now feel engaged and receive benefits from doing it: biologically degradable waste was turned into natural fertilizers which reduced the cost of agricultural input bought from outside markets; the recyclable items could turn into household goods: wood debris and plastic material sold to industries located nearby for energy use; and hazardous wastes could be exchanged with fertilizers and tree shoots. 2. Community leaders: They were the ones who helped organize local residents into different groups according to certain management techniques were required. They were also played a role of linking the grassroots’ needs with municipal policy makers and administration. 3. Municipality: Kohkha municipality provided funding supports for capacity building to community leaders and groups by bring external experts from networks and institutional partners. 4. Institutional Partners: central governmental agencies, such as provincial and district public health offices, were our partners who gave advices on health-related environmental knowledge. Universities located in the province, such as Lampang Rajaphat University, provided research findings and follow-up lessons learned. 5. The corporate sector: Two large companies and industries operated in the area nearby were also invited to participate in the waste management efforts. Siam Cement Group (SCG) was our customers buying wood debris and plastic material for energy-generating purposes, and the General Farm Limited provided the know-how to use soil worm farming, a technique of decomposing biologically degradable wastes from the households.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Three key strategies were developed for implementation of the program. 1. Raising awareness and collective learning: We provided well-researched data and information to the monthly “Kwang Pha-ya” forum, allowing participants to debate and exercise their innovative ideas as to how best to deal with the problem. This process was so successful that the people saw themselves – individual household, as part of the problem. When it was finally decided that management must start at home, the municipality authorities provided funding (Thai Baht200,000) to support training workshops and study tours, so that they learn how to work together from good practices elsewhere. 2. Building participation: A door-to-door campaign was organized by the municipality and partners (district public health office and education institutions), providing information as to how individual households could benefit from segregating wastes at home. The campaign had resulted in new initiatives, for example, “clean-and-tidy home yard”, “clean roads”, and others. Gradually more than 80 per cents of the total households had participated in the project. 3. Developing and designing systematic, community-based waste management schemes known as “gateway solution”, which involved the followings: • For general solid wastes produced we promoted segregation, starting at home of the individual in order to reduce and re-use as much as possible. We employed technology referred to as “Refuse Derived Fuel” to turn waste into supplementary energy in exchange for natural fertilizers and household utilities made from reused wastes • For recyclable wastes we focused on the 5Rs behavioral changes: Reject, Reduce, Recycle, Repair, and Reuse. These were used to encourage people how to deal with those composed of the thrown away papers, glasses, plastics, forms, clothes, ornaments, metal sheets, and others. • For biologically degradable wastes we applied the use of EM (effective micro-organisms) and soil worms to speed up the decomposing process (Anaerobic Digestion). Biologically degradable wastes decomposed by EM and soil worms resulted in natural fertilizers. These are good supplement for chemical fertilizers in the markets, which in turn reduced the cost of agriculture inputs exported from outside. • For hazardous wastes we built incentives by ways of “trade-ins” an exchange for something else more useful, namely natural fertilizers produced from wastes and young tree shoots in order for people to create more green space. Hazardous wastes collected were later managed by qualified private companies specialized in hazardous waste management in a safety manner. • For the end-of-pipe wastes dumped and land filled in a rented area we made financial contract with an industry located nearby for supplementary energy use.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
There were a number multi-stakeholders involved, including: • Municipality project team and administrative authorities: organized the monthly “Kwang Pa-ya” forum, conducted preliminary studies on health-related environmental problems, and presented findings; • Household members who joined the project, at 80 % of the total; • Institutional partners: district-level public health officers/specialists and researchers/experts at a university nearby, invited by the municipality authorities • Industries located nearby: invited to join the monthly meeting to assist with technological solutions and seek new opportunity to use sustainably use of resources available locally

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Outputs and impacts of the initiative are listed below: 1. A reduction of over 18 tons beginning from the last 10 years, an equivalent to 42,340 tons of Green House Gases; 2. The government had saved the operation cost up to half a million Thai Baht per year 3. Community households had available non-chemical and safety food supplies: • Reduced expenditures on food from markets estimated at ThaiBth20/hh/day, 7,200/hh/year or a total of over 4 million per year for the whole Koh Kha municipality (629 HHs); • Emerged new community groups to generate new income source from raising soil worms at ThaBaht8,000/kg.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
How to Overcome Obstacles and Constraints: • Fragmented and Departmentalized Policy and Implementation: There existed a number of central governmental organizations given specific mandates and budget allocation to solve health-related environmental problems at the community level. Collaboration and cooperation were well documented as an issue impeding successes. To overcome this constraint, we managed to do the followings: 1. Building participation from the community and then seek collaborative efforts from multi-stakeholders or what we called “institutional partnership”, inviting them to the open forum, joining the community in clarifying problems and finding solutions; 2. Creating clear and strong policy guidelines to which all stakeholders could agree and make commitment for the same goal and direction; 3. Allowing every stakeholder at the meeting to voice their concerns, present data, and expectations; 4. Sharing community data so that project monitoring and evaluation could reflect desired outcomes and shared successes. • Non-registered Residential Population: Kohkha municipality was growing as big as a twin city of Lampang, a provincial city, where economic development in the form of “logistic hub” of the Thailand’s North is underway. An increased number of governmental agencies and private businesses are moving in. With more people moving in, Kohkha has to deal with the environmental degradation as a result. These are what we did to overcome in an increased number of unregistered population: 1. We maintained our strong belief in full and equal participation of multi-stakeholders, strengthening our existing community groups and extended wider network of learning community; 2. We shared knowledge and experiences, built institutional cooperation and in the process of securing social consensus on how to make Kohkha a peaceful and sustainable city.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Key benefits given to the people: At the household level: o 85 % of total households in Khao Kha had joined the project o 65 % took part in turning solid wastes into natural fertilizers and then used in home gardens and farm fields in order to secure healthy food; o 82 % had extended their efforts participate in the follow-on project regarding “clean roads”, “attractive homesteads, and others; o New opportunities for generating cash income. At the community level:  Kohkha became a community of good practice on localizing SDGs: starting with solid waste management and then having causal effects on poverty reduction, gender equity, strong governance, and inclusive sustainable city. Khao Kha has recently received almost every week visitors from all over Thailand and neighboring countries who came to learn and share experiences;  One “Zero-waste” community has emerged;  New community groups and organizations have emerged, all of which are mixed ages and sex: • Organic Agriculture • Soil Worms Raising • Community-based small enterprise At the Organization Level: • Reduced management cost at nearly half a million ThaiBht. per year; • Reduce amount of wastes needed land-filled 18,250 ton per year, an equivalent of 42,340 tons of GHGs per year; • Received a number of national and ASEAN awards on low-Carbon and environmentally sustainable city

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Both central and local governments such as Kohkha is often seen disinterested in peoples’ participation, and this is well documented. Our use of the culturally familiar “Kwuang Pa-ya”, a monthly forum open to all residents, including those non-registered, moving in for their jobs, and other stakeholders, have gained trusts, inspiration, and volunteering spirits from the people in the community. Calls for cooperation and volunteering often met with approval and enthusiasm. As Kohkha has nearly every week received a number of visitors, from within the country and from neighboring countries. People in the community took pride in seeing and receiving guests coming for study visits. Women and youths in particular were seen eager to voluntarily participate in any activities provided for visitors. Because of our effective participatory process, many research and education institutions sent graduate students to conduct research and wanted to witness how “poor” communities were capable of solving problems in such a self-reliance manner. Since last year, Kohkha along with other 8 municipalities from Thailand was invited to join ASEAN’s environmentally sustainable city (ESC). International conferences were organized annually, and the work of Kohkha municipality was well received and acknowledged.

 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)
The monthly forum – an open space for new thoughts and wisdom—was culturally organized for the under-privileged, marginalized, women and children. Those who regularly came to the meetings and form themselves into groups were mostly from low-income households, women, youths, and the elderly all of whom (70 % of total) knew that they needed to learn how to generate income. As for gender, value given to women were ingrained in cultural practices. Northern culture perceived of women as being non-threatening and caring for future generations (as most natural resources, such as rivers, mountains, and many others were given feminine names).

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Kohkha Municipality
Institution Type:   Local Government  
Contact Person:   Nutjaphun Sirimogkonlawan
Title:   Executive General Administration Officer  
Telephone/ Fax:   +(66)5 4281066
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   399
Postal Code:   52130
City:   kohkha
State/Province:   Lampang

          Go Back

Print friendly Page