In 2011, people living in remote areas of Nakhon Sawan province were gravely affected by one of Thailand’s worst floods.
The rehabilitation program, supported by the World Bank Group and implemented by CODI, provides financial support for small infrastructure projects and housing repairs for flood victims still struggling to recover, and income support for community members to carry out the construction work themselves.
Using a community-driven approach, villages take matters into their own hands, determining actions needed for recovery and resilience while caring for the most vulnerable first.
Four years ago, urban poor communities in the remote areas of Nakhon Sawan and several other provinces in Thailand suffered the worst floods ever seen in that region. The disaster impacted more than 13 million people in the country and left many neighborhoods underwater for months.
“Water from the Ping River would overflow and flood our communities. It would remain stagnant for 3-5 months without retreating,” says Aramsri Chandrasuksri, a community leader of Wat Khao Jomkiri Nakprot District. “The smell was so bad, it was unbearable.”
Aramsri describes the 2011 floods as a tipping point.
“We used to build sandbag dikes, but it could not protect us,” she shares. “Some homes were flooded up to the rooftops. People had to move up the mountain, sleep in tents, and wait for the water to go down.”
After several attempts to borrow portable water pumps from neighboring villages, they realized that something more permanent was needed to strengthen the resilience of communities in the face of future disasters.
Flood-proofing villages through community mobilization
After gathering community inputs, villagers now work together to flood-proof their villages. Trained by CODI, they are developing projects that will help build a better disaster risk management system for their communities.
In Wat Khao, some of the residents’ priorities included paving roads, building or upgrading drainage ditches, and installing a proper water pump station.
“We have full cooperation like never before because people saw concrete outputs like new roads built with their own hands,” says Sakol Bamrungit, one of the community leaders. “From 20-30 villagers helping, we now have more than 100. We know that it benefits everyone.”
Access to water for the urban poor
The program is helping more than 3,000 households in a total of five provinces (Ayutthaya, Bangkok, Pathuntani and Nonthaburi, in addition to Nakhon Sawan) by improving the living conditions of the urban poor most affected by the floods.
More than 50 poor communities help select priority beneficiaries, or families and individuals who are most vulnerable and need urgent help. With technical assistance support from CODI, village volunteers then implement the projects themselves.
Puang Kerdpak, 80-years-old and suffering from a disability that makes walking difficult, moved to a nearby temple when the floods came. She was selected by her neighbors to receive 29,000 THB ($850) to rebuild her home.
“Before, when I had to go to the toilet, I had to walk into the woods. Now I have a proper lavatory,” she says. “I am so happy with my new home. I am glad to have tap water because I can barely walk and fetch water outside,” she says.
Up until a year ago, many poor communities in Nakhon Sawan relied on nearby canals for water.
“After discussing and carefully thinking through the communities’ needs, we agreed that building public utilities like access to water and electricity was our priority,” says Mayor Suthep Reungchaiseripong of Kao Liao sub-district.
Seng Tupchai and his wife, Somjit, welcome these changes. Before, the elderly couple practiced open defecation and had to collect and store water in large earthen jars, filled once a month by the district water truck. At 78 years old, Seng has tap water at home for the first time in his life.
“One earthen jar would last us 2-3 months. We’d use rainwater to drink,” says Seng. “Now the tap water is clean and we don’t have to wait for the water truck.”
The financial aid and the labor donated by villagers is putting flood-affected communities on a fast-track to recovery and resilience. Just as important is the sense of pride felt by residents keenly aware that change would not have been possible without their contribution and hard work.