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Rehabilitation of a seasonal floodplain forest: An indigenous-based approach to urban development for the floodplain forest communities of Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

Student: SATTAYANURAK Kanisa

Supervisor: Mathew Pryor
Thesis section: Productive Cities
Programme: Master of Landscape Architecture
Date: June 2020

Abstract

Rehabilitation of a Seasonal Floodplain Forest: An indigenous-based approach to urban development for the floodplain forest communities of Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand examines the effects of rapid urbanization on the Floodplain Forest along the Moon River, the longest river in Northeast Thailand and looks at the potential for traditional practices to guide and inform the ongoing development process, to more equitable and sustainable outcomes. People from different ethnic groups settled the floodplains several centuries ago. Collectively they found opportunity in the fluctuating waters and developed skills and knowledge of living off the land through the seasons: cultural practices which now identify them as a community. The construction of dams and the filling of land for development as part of the rapid urbanization of the city of Ubon Ratchathani, has dramatically changed this landscape, altering the cultural relationship between people and water, and making them more vulnerable to climate change. The formalization of the waters’ edge in the name of flood protection has severely restricted people’s access to the river and is increasingly inhibiting traditional fishing and foraging practices. When people lose their close relationship with water, they lose their understanding of the natural system and how to manage the water and land. Flooding becomes a risk rather than a resource. An indigenous practice-based approach to urban development for the floodplain forest communities using indigenous philosophies of ‘symbiosis with Nature’ in relation to design, should generate sustainable and climate resilient infrastructures, and help people achieve balanced lifestyles. While still permitting urban development, the impact of these strategies would be to increase accessibility to water for Ubon people, generate the dynamic and diverse activities along the river and inland wetland related to natural systems and seasonal change, enhance biodiversity and ecosystem for all inhabitants, and reduce the negative effects from flood and drought.

Keywords: indigenous practices; urbanization; floodplain forest; sustainability; northeast Thailand

Enlarge Photo: People from different ethnic groups settled the floodplains several centuries ago. The development of the city start from early 19th century when the airport and train station were build. By SATTAYANURAK Kanisa.Enlarge Photo: In the past, the inland wetlands were filled by the water from Moon River in wet season. Fish, sediment, and nutrients flowed freely and people benefited from it. By SATTAYANURAK Kanisa.Enlarge Photo: Because of the formalization of the waters' edge, people lose their close relationship with water and their understanding of the natural system. Flooding becomes a risk rather than a resource. By SATTAYANURAK Kanisa.Enlarge Photo: The strategies aim to reduce risk of culture and biodiversity loss, social inequality, and vulnerability to climate change. Through progressive floods, forest will be restored and human-water relationship will revive. By SATTAYANURAK Kanisa.Enlarge Photo: The indigenous philosophy of living with fluctuating water and how the structures could be deployed in relation to settlement and urban infrastructure in wet season and dry season. By SATTAYANURAK Kanisa.Enlarge Photo: The structures are designed to mitigate the obstruction of natural flow, improving movement of water to help the floodplain forest regenerate and give people opportunities to experience cultural activities. By SATTAYANURAK Kanisa.Enlarge Photo: Floodplain communities understand the natural patterns of wet and dry, and have developed their cultural practices to exploit these natural resources sustainably in the different seasons. By SATTAYANURAK Kanisa.Enlarge Photo: The Biodiversity Conservation Area where the purpose of structure is for educational and recreational, there are variety of gathering spaces and viewpoints to observe the ecosystem without touching the ground. By SATTAYANURAK Kanisa.Enlarge Photo: Increasing accessibility to water will give people more opportunities to experience and practice the cultural activities that give meaning to the landscape such as food products, herbs, and materials. By SATTAYANURAK Kanisa.Enlarge Photo: The dynamic and diverse activities along the river and inland wetland related to natural system and seasonal change for both indigenous peoples, new generations, and tourists. By SATTAYANURAK Kanisa.
UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG
FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE