|GATE - 4/96 - Information - the Key to Sustainable Development (GTZ GATE, 1996, 60 p.)|
New Southeast Asian centre promotes Appropriate Technology
by Tim Sharp, Bundit Na-Lamphun and Tien-ake Tiyapongpattana
More and more money is needed to maintain the momentum of development in the Mekong Basin region. But neither are human needs being adequately met, nor is there a let-up in the strain on the environment that rapid growth has been causing. Our authors argue that this is a case for appropriate technology.
During the past decade or so, mainland Southeast Asia has been one of the more vibrant places on Earth. Following the end of hostilities in the 1970s, almost all countries in the region have experienced rapid social and economic growth. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) says the region's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by an average 6.5 percent per year from 1985-1992,and regional growth rates have topped seven per cent each year since then. Even statecontrolled economies like China and SR Vietnam are enjoying the boom.
Some of the consequences of this growth are truly benign. Basic indicators of human well being such as nutrition, life expectancy and literacy have improved dramatically. The more superficial indicators of the good life such as housing and car ownership have also improved. In most countries, these developments have been accompanied by a marked shift away from agriculture to industry and even to the service sector. Modern telecommunications, computers and even the Internet now co-exist in cities with rural and small-town lifestyles that have not changed in centuries.
Changes not problem-free
But as this prospect suggests, some of the changes are not problem-free. For example, increasing income disparity is becoming steadily more noticeable. Whereas in many developed countries the wealthiest fifth of the population generally captures less than 40 per cent of total income according to World Bank figures, the same population group in rapidly developing countries often captures well over that. The wealthiest fifth in Thailand, SR Vietnam and China for example capture 51, 44 and 42 per cent of total wealth respectively while the poorest fifth in the same three countries must make do with only six, eight and six per cent of total wealth respectively. Such marked differences often reflect geographic and cultural divides, the different lifestyles of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, not to mention remote villages in Vietnam, being a dramatic example.
Underlying these immediate problems are a host of others that are only now becoming apparent. For instance, the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific, hosted by the United Nations in Bangkok in November 1995, found growing land degradation, deforestation, big-diversity loss and pollution in Southeast Asia. Air and water quality is diminishing. Solid wastes, urbanisation, traffic congestion and industrialisation are all growing problems.
Unhappily, their solution at least in conventional terms promises to be hugely expensive and perhaps even unaffordable. The ADB recently compared investment in public infrastructure in Asia as a whole with and without at tension to the environment. It then compared these figures with the region's ability to pay. If no attention is paid to the environment at present economic growth rates, the 'business as usual' ease, the region would need to spend some US$ 13 billion on environmental infrastructure in the year 2000, mainly for water supply, population policies, forestry and sanitation. With attention to the environment and rapid development, however, the figure balloons to US$ 70 billion mainly for electricity generation, industrial waste management, water supply and transport. But the infrastructure development resource gap - the shortfall in funds needed to pay for these things-is growing. Estimated at 2.3 per cent of GDP for Southeast Asia in 1993, the gap grew to 2.9 per cent in 1994 and 4.5 per cent in 1995. It is expected to remain above 4.0 per cent for the foreseeable future.
Significantly, a mayor site for these problems could well be the countries along the Mekong River - SR Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and the Chinese province of Yunnan. Mekong Basin development has suddenly become a hot issue. The ADB is the lead agency to coordinate several international programmes for the basin whose total budget would be around US$ 40 billion, the dream being that the Mekong could become the Danube of the East.
These sums are of course beyond anyone's reach. Indeed, part of the paradox of the region's rapid development is that it now needs such huge sums to maintain the momentum. As many people have been saying for years, there must be a better way - one in which development can still be achieved but in greater harmony with people and with nature. One of the main means by which such development would be achieved would be through the use of appropriate technology (AT). AT is the technology, whatever its «level", that meets human needs in an affordable, environmentally friendly way. A more precise definition is impossible because the actual technology, even for the same application, differs according to the specific circumstances of time and place. Thus pumping water in Bangkok, Savannakhet or a hamlet outside Hanoi is three separate problems. Appropriate technology is the obverse of the single panacea.
But this specificity itself causes difficulty. For if appropriate technology is culture and site specific, then a mass of information must be available to the people who would like to use it. Yet the information is usually widely scattered and often incomplete or unmodified to local conditions. Prospective users therefore often cannot find it, let alone process, evaluate and obtain it. Thus a collector, filter and distributor of such information is needed. This was the starting point for the Regional Information Service Centre for Southeast Asia on Appropriate Technology (RISE-AT)inThailand. Setup within Chiang Mai University's Institute for Science and Technology Researchand Development (IST) in May 1995 as an independent body with initial technical and financial support from the Information and Advisory Service on Appropriate Technology (ISAT) of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fhnische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, it is intended specifically to help the Mekong Basin countries mentioned earlier.
Focus on five main technologies
The Centre's role is to fill the gaps that exist in information about appropriate technology. Two main challenges are involved - first, to find and prepare information in a format that suits prospective users, and second, to deliver the information to the users and help them apply it.
To begin with, RISE-AT has targeted five main technologies. These are anaerobic fermentation and waste water treatment, renewable energy, construction, agriculture/ food processing, and handicrafts/small business. Most of these technologies are in strong demand in all five countries. The Centre then collects from the Internet, directories, research institutes and other organisations all the information it can find on these technologies and their suppliers. It then encourages either individuals or private sector, NGO or government organisations at whatever level to use its question and answer (Q&A) service. This direct contact with potential AT users helps to ensure that RISE-AT's information is demand oriented. Once it knows what the actual demands are, it can develop an overview of the issues and contribute towards solutions. Because it can quickly search the relevant databases, it can generally offer a broad range of options that often include alternatives. Because it also maintains a database of resource persons, manufacturers and suppliers it can then follow through on the original request by organising seminars or workshops on the topic so that the chosen technology is actually delivered to the user. The networks and user groups that come into being in this way join RISEAT's growing network of contacts. Steadily, as more and more technologies become ever more widely dispersed through the region, market demand for them will develop leading to indigenous, environmentally-desirable industry.
Key role for universities
A crucial aspect of this structure is the network of contacts. Right at the start, therefore, RISE-AT carefully identified at least one government and non-government organisationin each country that can either supply it with information or help it reach out to prospective end-users. In practice, RISE-AT has several key partners in most of the five target countries including government departments, NGOs, universities and private sector organisations. Some of these, particularly the universities, provide both information and outreach channels and may also provide links to several different kinds of technology. Thus an apparently select group of network members - RISE-AT currently has about 30 key partners across the five countries - actually translates into a considerable technological and grassroots reach. Consider for example, solar energy issues. Following queries to RISE-AT's Q&A service and working together with the Solar Energy Research and Training Centre (SERT) at Naresuan University in Phitsanulok, Thailand, and the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of Yunnan (ISTIY), RISE-AT helped to organise an international seminar on the financing and commercialisation of solar energy activities in South and East Asia that was held in Kunming, Yunnan Province, PR China, in August 1996.
The seminar helped to bring private sector manufacturers, academics, bureaucrats and development NGOs together. It exceeded expectations by attracting 70 participants from 16 countries. Predictably and properly, most of these were from RISE-AT countries - Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Thailand and SR Vietnam - but India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Philippines, not to mention several European countries, were also represented. The seminar helped to introduce a regional organisation now headquartered in Lao PDR - the «Council on Renewable Energy in the Mekong Region" («CORE"; which see in the following).
In other examples of its work, RISE-AT will contribute towards a regional seminar on anaerobic technology for waste and waste water management in Ho Chi Minh City, SR Vietnam in December 1996. The seminar is jointly organised by the Renewable Energy Centre at Can Tho University, SR Vietnam, CEFINEA, Ho Chi Minh City, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fhnische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) Gmb H. Anaerobic technology has applications in sewage treatment, waste recycling, energy recovery and methane emission reduction and is therefore hugely important to both municipalities and many kinds of industry.
Also in co-operation with Thailand's Department of Agricultural Extension (DoAE), RISE-AT organised training on anaerobic and biogas technology for two technicians from the Science, Technology and Environment Organization (STENO) of the Lao PDR. STENO will now start a demonstration programme to apply the technology with further support from Thailand's DoAE and RISE-AT.
The Centre has also initiated a successful working group on hospital waste treatment that now involves all major hospitals in Chiang Mai (cf. further on in this edition) and is moving strongly into textile technology, particularly spinning and dyeing, as part of its emphasis on handicrafts and small businesses. This issue offers a classic example of the Q&A service in action. By responding to a simple request for information about faster, more productive spinning machines, the Centre uncovered a whole cluster of interrelated problems whose solution would restore textiles to a viable cottage industry. In fact one of the best ways to gauge RISE-AT's activities is to look at the data on the Q&A Service. Less than 18 months after its establishment, RISEAT had answered about 140 requests from 16 countries by end of September 1996, far more both in number and geographic spread than was anticipated. Queries have come from as far away as Argentina, Bhutan, Mexico and Sri Lanka, and the affiliation of respondents is equally broad. Significantly, these are spread more or less evenly across government, NGOs and the private sector, indicating its work in appropriate technology is a very welcome addition to efforts to achieve sustainable development in Southeast Asia.
Ces dix dernis ann, le Sud-Est asiatique a connu un essor nomique prodigieux, marquans la plupart des pays de la ron par une mutation radicale de socis traditionnellement agricoles en socis industrielles. Un peu partout, le niveau de vie moyen de la population s'est vMais l'environnement fait les frais de ce dllage nomique. Les technologies appropri pourraient aider notablement emer ette situation. A cette fin, le service d'information RISE-AT recueille et diffuse les informations correspondantes dans la ron.
En el curve de los os a el desarrollo econo de los pas del sureste de Asia ha sido vertiginoso, caracterizado, en la mayor parte de los pas de la regipor la marcada transformacie sociedades agrlas en industriales. En general, el nivel de vida de la poblacia mejorado significativamente. No obstante, el auge econo repercute negativa y marcadamente sobre el medio ambiente. Las tecnolog apropiadas podr contribuir considerablemente a solventar esta situaciEl servicio de informaciISE-AT recopila y divulga informaciobre este tema en la region.
Some fresh perceptions on Chiang Mai's perennial garbage crisis
by Bundit Na-Lamphun, Martin Weinschenk-Foerster and Ulrich StGrabowski
Garbage is threatening to suffocate the city of Chiang Mail A number of attempts to get rid of refuse have not only failed but brought local inhabitants up in arms as well. RISE-AT proposes treatment of garbage involving recycling as opposed to dumping in landfills or incineration. However, there are many obstacles, not the least of which being official administration.
Mention the word «garbage" to anyone in or around the northern Thai capital of Chiang Mai and one is likely to be met with either a cynical smile, an angry glare or outright suspicion. Since 1989, the issue has become increasingly emotive to the point where four separate communities have each come out in angry public protest against the local authorities.
The first such event took place at Mae Hia, a small village a few miles to the southwest of the city where garbage had been dumped in a simple landfill since 1957. The villagers were fed up with mismanagement of the dump that included not just broken promises to manage it better but stench, smoke and flies as well. They blocked access to it.
Taken by surprise, the Chiang Mai municipality was forced to use a number of small temporary landfills scattered around the city while it found and prepared the next «permanent" site in San Sai District to the northeast. This was better than Mae Hia in that the site was excavated and lined but no leachate treatment system was installed. Moreover, the whole search and development process took so long - five years - that before it was ready the temporary sites had already been exhausted. Hence in late 1994 mounds of smelly uncollected garbage could be found all over the city. This situation prompted a second protest by angry, ashamed residents over non-collection of the city's solid wastes.
In the event, a meeting of ASEAN's economic ministers at the city's premier hotel provided the impetus to clean up the streets. The Army and the municipal garbage collection service was mobilised. Almost overnight and before the VIPs arrived the city was clean. But the garbage had in fact been tucked temporarily out of sight to be moved as soon as possible to San Sail When that facility opened shortly afterwards the normal garbage stream, plus the backlog, plus wastes from a nearby industrial estate in Lamphun province, plus domestic wastes from outlying private housing estates all but overwhelmed it. It was soon accepting over 300 tons of garbage a day. At present rates it will be exhausted by the end of 1996.
It was recognised from the start that San Sai would have only a short lifespan. Thus a search for a more permanent alternative began almost immediately. Incineration seemed the best option. But because Chiang Mai's garbage has a high "wet» - mainly organic - content, a dual-fuel lignite-garbage fired power generation plant was proposed to be built at Hang Dong not far from Mae Hia. Unhappily, the decision was taken by central government in Bangkok without consulting either the local authorities or the community, or for that matter studying the local situation in any great detail. Almost inevitably, the community protested in a series of violent disturbances in late 1995, citing as the reason for their protests the possible environmental harm from the power plant. The project is now shelved, at least for the moment.
But by this time, San Sai was showing its imperfections too. The impervious lining means that rainfall and leachate must be pumped from the site into tankers for transport and treatment elsewhere. When heavy rain overwhelms the pumps, or plastic bags block the inlets, the whole site becomes a filthy, stinking swamp. So again nearby residents protested. In May 1996, they blocked access to the site. The net effect is that within a few months, Chiang Mai will have nowhere to dump its garbage and, because it has alienated community after community, little prospect of finding a new site. Meanwhile, very little progress has been made in developing more technological solutions.
This brief chronology serves to emphasise a key feature of municipal government throughout Thailand, namely that most of the important decisions and the authority to implement them are still taken and held by central government. As a consequence, decisions tend to be arbitrary, only poorly researched, and imposed on the local community from above. Disempowered local communities meanwhile have neither the incentive nor the means to solve their own problems. They can only accede to the view from the capital which, while meant for the best, is not always very clear.
This was made very obvious when RISE-AT became more involved in the issue in late 1995. Noting that solid waste management is a pressing issue, not just in Chiang Mai but in a rapidly growing number of municipalities across the country, it initiated more baseline studies and the compilation of relevant information in cooperation with university researchers. The results of this work were discussed several times with municipal officials.
L'encombrement des darges a soulevlusieurs vagues d'indignation dans l'opinion publique et fait peser de surcroune menace grandissante sur l'environnement et la santublique. Un projet d'usine d'incintion des dets raccordne centrale thermique a rejetar la population riveraine en raison des nuisances qu'il pourrait occasionner. Le service d'information RISEAT s'emploie actuellement aire le point de la situation, aprquoi il deviendra possible de dlopper un concept diffnci'mination et de recyclage des dets.
En diversas ocasiones, los rellenos sanitarios colmados hen dado luger a protestas pas; adem representan un creciente peligro pare el medio ambiente. Los habitantes del luger rechazan asimismo por motivos ecolos una planta de incineracie residuos conectada con una central elrica. RISE-AT se encargarrimerodellevar a cabo una compilacie los datos efectivos, sobre cuyos resultados se proceder elaborar un proyecto diferenciado de saneamiento con un componente de reciclaje.
The studies undertaken in cooperation with Chiang Mai University make fascinating reading. The first substantive point is that official population and waste generation statistics are often quite inaccurate.
Therefore no reliable basis exists by which to estimate or predict waste management requirements. One subset within this lack of knowledge is that waste composition IS not reliably known either. Hence right from the start, the development of a realistic waste management strategy is Impossible. But in addition to these drawbacks, the studies found that for political reasons, garbage service fees are both unrealistically low and even then collected only on a voluntary basis. So even if one could produce a realistic plan, it could not be implemented for lack of funds. Not unexpectedly in such a situation, the garbage truck fleet is decrepit. Most of the 48 trucks are over 13 years old, must be repaired by their drivers when they frequently break down, and are often too large to enter the city's small lanes. Just about the only bright point is that two zones in the city are served by private sub-contractors with 20 additional trucks, but even here the garbage containers that are supplied by the municipality are often too big to be handled by garbage workers It is amazing that the City IS as clean as it is.
Against this background, any proposed solutions are necessarily of an ad hoc nature. Officially, three waste management alternatives have been considered - landfill, composting and incineration - each as competing alternatives. The most careful research urged landfill as having the lowest capital and operating costs, followed by composting and incineration as progressively less financially attractive. However, these alternatives ignored growing land scarcity (not merely a physical constraint but a financial one as well) with regard to the landfill option, as well as the only partial solution offered by composting and the air pollution associated with incineration. More seriously, the proposed solutions did not address shortcomings in the fee collection system or attempt to redress the underlying knowledgegap. They also ignored the possibility of integrated solid waste management, including waste separation and recycling.
Preliminary RISE-AT suggestions attempt to deal with all these issues. Because actual data is unavailable, they are necessarily indicative only. Yet they move the whole discussion of possible solid waste management strategies onto a higher plane. All the relevant aspects are considered.
Starting with population, RISE-AT's work accepts Transit Authority of Thailand estimates made in 1993. These figures put Chiang Mai's 1995 population at 693,330, which is more than double the "official» estimate of 256,069. If each person generates 0.34 kgs of garbage per day (against a higher officially assumed 1 kg) total waste generated is 256 tons per day, which is quite close to the actual quantities handled. The official estimate also gives 256 tons, the same quantity, but because the baseline assumptions differ, the two projections diverge sharply over time. The RISEAT proposal suggests that the city's population will grow to 0.88, 1.00 and 1.12 million by the year 2005,2010 and 2015 respectively, generating 325, 371 and 413 tons per day of garbage respectively. For the same dates, the official population estimates are considerably lower and officials expect that the amount of garbage per day would be only 282,305 and 361 tons in the year 2005, 2010, and 2015 respectively.
RISE -AT then suggests that the most probable composition of Chiang Mai's solid wastes is as follows (based on a recent survey):
Plastics and rubber
Organic material like food scraps
Ceramic, sand, stone
Other (sweepings, etc.)
If a considerable share of the organic fraction is available for processing and if a combined anaerobic/aerobic composting system is applied, it would thus be possible to dispose of the large organic fraction of Chiang Mai's wastes at a low net cost of less than 300 Baht per ton while producing energy (methane) and compost at the same time. The remaining fractions would then become available for recycling. Concerning the organic share, a combined anaerobic/aerobic composting system could start with the huge amount of biomass material from hotels (e.g. food residues) and the vegetable/fruit markets; largely unmixed organic material, which is easily collected at the source. Thus for the beginning, the waste collection system and behaviour need not be changed for each individual household, but the main fraction of organic material could be easily collected and treated in an environmentally sound way instead of being dumped at the landfill.
Recycling already occurs in Chiang Mai but mostly at low recycling rates - plastic 6.5 %, paper 16.5%, glass 22.9% and metal 80.0%. The main problems are that garbage is not separated at source and is therefore contaminated, and waste picking by both private scavengers and waste collectors and landfill workers under contract to the municipality is more tolerated than encouraged.
As a result, only the most easily resaleable items are recovered. If on the other hand waste picking was encouraged, it would in combination with some form of biocomposting system open the way for integrated solid waste management. Assuming 8090% of each *action becomes available for recycling and that 50-95% of it is recycled, over half of the initial total waste stream could be recycled. The balance would then go to sanitary landfill at much lower costs than incineration. The reduced quantities of material would of course extend land fill life. In this way, all wastes would be handled at least cost and for least environmental impact.
But as always, the problems to be overcome are more than just technical. If one looks at the present state of solid waste management in Chiang Mai, it is crippled not just by ignorance of the technical issues but by poor fee collection and public alienation, both of which are rooted in low public awareness of the issues. As long as people are unaware of what is at stake, it is easy for them to take an unsympathetic and even hostile stance towards government initiatives while simultaneously being content to avoid paying collection fees. In such a context, it is easy for politicians to perceive the need to pay as a barrier to their re-election. They therefore tend to forgive nonpayment. But no money of course dooms the whole exercise.
For these reasons, and as a means of contributing to informed public debate, NGOs and RISE-AT focus on public awareness creation, primarily through the Thai and Englishlanguage print media. They often point out for a specific fraction of the total waste stream what would be the best approach for that fraction within an assumed integrated waste management package that may or may not be presented as well. Unhappily, given the urgency of the situation, this approach though vital, promises to take a long time to accomplish its goals.
At odds with administrative structure
Moreover, in such a situation, dissemination of an integrated approach to solid waste management based on appropriate technology can be seen as opposing the existing centralised administrative structure in Thailand. Bangkok elite, living and working in their environment, can all too easily assume that what is appropriate for Bangkok must necessarily also be appropriate for Chiang Mail Thus if high-technology incineration is the only feasible approach in Bangkok, why not apply it to Chiang Mai too? In this view, incineration can seem to be such an obvious choice that no further discussion is needed.
Unhappily, this approach has produced not merely a flurry of competing proposals from incinerator suppliers, at least one of which has become a contractual obligation, but any opposition to it from whatever quarter can easily be seen as obstructive. Such a confrontational stance becomes even easier to adopt in view of the past history of protests, and the lack of power, influence and interest of local authority. Thus in these circumstances, public awareness creation becomes an extremely delicate task that must be handled with great tact.
On the other hand, the long history of protest has also been accompanied by a growing swell of public awareness campaigns such that these activities can be viewed as positive contributions to the debate. Chiang Mai University organised the third and fourth National Symposiums on Environmental Technologies in Chiang Mai in November 1990 and June 1992 respectively. In September 1993 a a Clean up Chiang Mai" project involved thousands of people in cleaning up the historic parts of the city, an activity that was repeated in late 1994. At that time, the city's garbage collection crisis sparked action by several NGOs, the best known of which are the «We Love Chiang Mai Group" and "Walk for a Better Environment" which are close cooperation partners of RISEAT. The University has continued quietly to organise seminars on solid waste disposal technology, municipal laws in relation to the environment and other topics through 1995 and 1996. Very gradually through such activities, the authorities are coming to realise the need for a much more open, proactive, locally acceptable stance. Change is taking place. But it promises to be a long road and one which may still be difficult to travel.
Banana wastes application
Meanwhile, in another solid waste management development, the Solar Energy Research and Training Centre (SERT) at Naresuan University at Phitsanuloke, Thailand, in co-operation with GTZ/ ISAT has applied biogas technology to banana wastes. Villagers near the university peel banana stems to sun-dry the inner core, but the discarded peel produces a strong odour as it rots. SERT's solution has been to teach the villagers to feed the peel to biogas digesters. They now get methane gas for cooking and lighting instead of the odour.
Q&A service leads to intermediary role
by Rewat Yangyeun and Tien-ake Tiyapongpattana
Hospital waste can be a dangerous health hazard, especially if it is simply dumped in landfills. RISE-AT has been supporting hospitals in Chiang Mai that are loooking for better solutions. A working group has been formed to develop an efficient incineration concept. RISEAT is playing an important role in facilitating planning and decision-making processes. Approaches in Chiang-Mai could be applicable nationally.
When monsoonfloods washed away a small Chiang Mai hospital's accumulation of infectious wastes in mid-1995, its staff started to worry. Where might the wastes go? Would they contaminate the flood waters? Who might become infected? Following normal procedures, the wastes had been separated from the hospital's ordinary garbage, but the floods carried them downstream before they could be disposed of. Since disposal was problematic anyway and the hospital's staff knew about the newly established RISEAT, a first contact was made.
Initially, the query was perfectly straightforward. The hospital had long had difficulty disposing of its infections wastes. Not only are effective incinerators expensive, but the available municipal services do not distinguish between ordinary garbage and toxic or infectious wastes. The hospital therefore wanted to know whether RISE-AT knew of any good, low-cost incinerators that it could install. It would then be able to burn its own wastes before they were washed away or were dumped into the ordinary communal landfill.
Through contacts at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Bangkok, RISE-AT was able to refer the hospital to a Hungarian incinerator that might serve its purposes. However, the query interested RISE-AT so much that, after talking the problem over with the hospital, it decided to see whether other hospitals in Chiang Mai had similar problems. A survey conducted among the city's 28 hospitals in late 1995 produced an unequivocal answer: Yes!
Unfortunately, some of the hospitals felt the issue was too sensitive to discuss. Even so, 18 of the 28 responded to RISE-AT's questionnaire. It turned out that as each hospital bed generates roughly 0.4 kgs of wastes per day, the 4,762 beds in the 18 responding hospitals generate some 1.8 tons of waste per day. The majority of responding hospitals separate their wastes and most of these, generally the larger ones, incinerate them. However, not only are most of the incinerators substandard but the majority of Chiang Mai's hospitals, perhaps even as many as 20 out of 28, do not incinerate at all. In other words, because the municipality does not distinguish between types of solid waste, quite large quantities of infectious waste that may even include diseased organs, whether separated by the hospitals or not, are dumped in ordinary landfills where they constitute a substantial public health and environmental hazard. Quite clearly, it would be advantageous if a better solution could be found.
By this time, RISE-AT was fully committed to the problem. So in late January 1996, it organised an informal working group among staff from some of the hospitals it had surveyed. Technicians from the leading hospital, Maharaj, were invited to share their experience with incineration. Officials from the Provincial Health Office, the municipality and the Thailand Research Fund were invited to attend.
The discussions identified a cluster of quite intricate technical and economic problems. For although incineration is the obvious way to safely dispose of infectious wastes, it is neither cheap nor necessarily easy. On the financial side the capital cost of the equipment is often greater than a small hospital wanting to buy its own incinerator can afford. Technically, incineration must occur at high temperatures. Otherwise the smoke and toxic gases produced from rubber gloves and disposable syringes among other items, not to mention the possible survival of harmful bacteria and viri from diseased tissues, make it a greater health and environmental hazard than just combining the wastes with the normal garbage stream. And if the municipality cannot offer a communal incinerator, should the hospitals form some sort of co-operative to set up their own system? If so, how, where, what are the costs, how would it work and be paid for?
As these issues emerged they began to ramify into the overall waste management problem faced by Chiang Mai (cf. previous story). In a farreaching move, the working group therefore established a formal organisation - The Working Group for Chiang Mai Hospital Waste Management. Chaired by the Provincial Health Officer, and including representatives from the municipality, the Thailand Research Fund, and 11 Chiang Mai hospitals and facilitated by RISE-AT, the CHWM held its first meeting on 2 February 1996. It met again in late April at RISE-AT and has since been informed by the municipality of its intention to move the incinerator from Maharaj Hospital to municipal land so as to operate it as a municipal service for all Chiang Mai hospitals.
This welcome decision in principle largely solves the initial problem and shows the efficacy of the working group approach. However, actually implementing it may take time, and as RISE-AT's earlier investigations showed, the issue is not that simple.
Essentially, the safe disposal of infectious wastes is a cost to hospitals which they are morally obliged to meet. Now that an incinerator may soon become available, the issue switches from just disposal to efficient, cost-effective waste handling. RISE-AT identified the following areas for a more comprehensive concept at the 2 February meeting:
- apply all possibilities of pretreatment of wastes, especially on-site inactivation
- pre-collection and separation/recycling of wastes by type and hazard
- further in-hospital collection and transportation
- suitable and effective technologies for inactivation/disposal such as thermal, chemical or irradiation methods
- post-treatment issues including disposal of residues - management and staff skills and training needs
- equipment operation plans and manuals
- emergency plans (if the municipal incinerator is nonoperational)
-follow-up and monitoring of the waste treatment system (by which institution, how often and so forth).
The full investigation of all these areas within the context of the amount of wastes to be handled and the prevailing health and sanitation standards would permit the identification of the most cost effective cluster of waste treatment options both by individual waste and as an integrated infectious waste management system. Bearing in mind such things as transport costs of as much as 10 Baht per kg for, in some hospitals, up to 200 kgs of wastes per day to the central incinerator, such issues are far from trivial.
In one sense, both the formation of the Working Group and the decision to use the Maharaj Hospital incinerator for other hospitals also means that RISE-AT's role is over. But there are other senses in which it is still needed. The whole issue of wastes is still so sensitive between hospitals that they welcome RISEAT's presence as a neutral body through whom they can work. And, impending public health legislation that will soon require all hospitals to incinerate their wastes promises to force the issue to the attention of even those hospitals that at present are doing nothing.
This means that RISE-AT, working through the group, could still play an important role in facilitating the series of investigations outlined earner. But because their outcomes under the new legislation would be important to all hospitals in Chiang Mai the impact could be very much greater than was originally imagined. And if it is assumed that the law will come into force within a year and that hospitals will then have another year's grace period within which to begin incineration, something like a two-year investigation horizon emerges. Given that by that time incineration must be adopted by all hospitals, it follows that within the same time frame they need to investigate all the other aspects.
A further issue that has not yet been considered concerns the expansion of the concept as a whole. The group has so far been working and thinking purely in terms of Chiang Mai city. But there are many other hospitals in the province. Hospitals in other provinces will also have to obey the new law. Thus the group may unwittingly have begun to formulate general concepts and approaches that might be applicable nationally.
In any case, RISE-AT stands ready to play an intermediary role, facilitating the investigation, planning and decision-making processes as a neutral body able to mobilise technological and managerial expertise from qualified resources inside and outside the country. It is precisely this role that is proving to have immense value in working towards appropriate solutions for specific problems.
A Chiang Mai, une ville du Nord de la Thande, d'importantes quantitde dets hospitaliers ont emport par les inondations de la mi-1995. Alarmpar cette situation, l'administration hospitali a contacte service d'information RISEAT pour borer une vaste strate d'mination des dets hospitaliers. Les projets d'mination des dets oduit qu'un groupe de travail doit borer pourraient avoir nombre de retomb positives, m audele la seule ron de Chiang Mail
Las inundaciones arrastraron a mediados de 1995 los desechos de hospitales de la ciudad de Chiang Mail A rade ello, la administracie hospitales establecintacto con RISE-AT, a fin de elaborar un esquema integral pare el saneamiento de residuos hopitalarios. Las propuestas sobre soluciones econas pare el saneamiento de desechos, elaboradas por un grupo de trabajo, podr tener efecto malle Chiang Mail
A new organisation helps to promote sustainable energy in the Mekong region
by Wattanapong Rakwichian, John O'Donoghue, and Bundit Na-Lamphun
Renewable energy resources are not being made use of sufficiently in the Mekong region. Above all, there is a lack of information and awareness about sustainable energy. However, a recently established organisation has launched highly successful networking activities that even appear to be having an impact beyond the Mekong countries.
Every country along the Mekong River has abundant renewable energy resources. In addition to potentially massive hydropower from the mainstream and its tributaries, both sunshine and biomass are plentiful. Yet most of these countries suffer severe and widespread energy deprivation, particularly if this is measured in terms of available electricity in the countryside. Shortages are particularly grave in Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic, but also exist to lesser degrees in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Thailand and Yunnan, People's Republic of China. Since all the renewables can easily contribute to decentralised energy supply, the best use of available resources is obviously not being made.
As the newly established "Council on Renewable Energy in the Mekong Region (CORE)" defined at its inaugural meeting in March 1996 at Phitsanulok, Thailand, at least 17 conditions hamper optimum renewable resource use. The most important one is a lack of information and awareness about the viability of sustainable energy, together with a lack of knowledge of the local geographic and socio - economic conditions within which it would work. CORE would help to redress these issues through networking, thus contributing to the region's sustainable development. But within just six months of its establishment it has found an eager audience that extends beyond the original five Mekong countries. India, Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and even Australia now want to cooperate to promote sustainable energy.
There is a sense in which sub-optimal use of renewable resources is a relatively recent phenomenon. Although alternative technology enthusiasts have been trumpeting both the need and the possibility to switch to renewable energies for several decades, the fact remains that most of the technologies have only recently matured or are still maturing. Initial costs, system delivery, after-sales-services and operation often still pose problems.
Still a fringe issue
Yet it is also true that Appropriate Technology still means "fringe" to many people, perhaps especially policy makers, so that the old paradigms of centralised, state-controlled energy delivery systems persist even as demand for and the ability to supply decentralised privatised energy services in Southeast Asia expands. And while it may be overly pessimistic to say that supplies of fossil fuels are decreasing, at least in any real world economic sense, it is also true that they must be finite, that they often contribute to pollution, and that the delivery systems that they have fostered cannot provide affordable energy to dispersed populations. There are thus now very powerful reasons why a fresh look at sustainable energy is needed.
The new approach began back in 1994 when the GTZ in Germany and the Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation (DTEC) in Thailand sponsored a seminar in Chiang Mai on the State of the Art and Prospects for Photovoltaic Systems in Thailand and Neighbouring Countries. That meeting brought together nine sustainable energy organisations from Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, SR Vietnam and Thailand who agreed to maintain contact. The nine organisations are as follows:
- Ministry of Mines, Energy and Industries, Department of Energy, Royal Kingdom of Cambodia;
- Yunnan Semiconductor Factory, Kunming;
- Institute of Science and Technical Information of Yunnan (ISTIY), both of the People's Republic of China;
- Science, Technology and Environment Organization (STENO), Lao People's Democratic Republic;
- Ministry of Industries, Institute of Energy, Hanoi;
- Vietnam National Centre for Science and Technology, SOLARLAB, both of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam;
- Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, Department of Energy Development and Promotion (DEDP, Bangkok);
- Solar Energy Research and Training Centre (SERT), Naresuan University, Phitsanulok, RISE-AT, Chiang Mai, all in Thailand.
But sustainable energy is such an important aspect of the region's development that it soon became clear that the core group should do more than just maintain contact. Thus, after informal discussions between the partners, plus trips between February and May 1995 to all five countries by SERT and RISE-AT staff to collect baseline data, they met again in late March 1996 at Naresuan University. It was there, working from the baseline data and additional country reports prepared by the partners, that about 17 problems affecting the promotion of sustainable energy systems were identified and CORE was inaugurated.
The Council's first chairman is Mr. Pho Muangnalad, Director of Cabinet, Science, Technology and Environment Organization of Lao PDR. The Secretariat is at SERT. The problems identified by the inaugural meeting are listed below:
1. A lack of promotion and awareness on the range of sustainable energy technologies that are already available in a proven and cost-effective form. The unaware majority varies from grass-rootusers to active policy/decision makers in all countries.
2. A lack of practical day-today information that can be directly put to use by the endusers of sustainable energy systems, particularly in local languages.
3. Lack of literature (brochures & advertisements) to promote existing and proven technology in the market place to attract user/consumer attention.
4. There is concern from countries located downstream on the Mekong River that any attempts to build large hydro - power stations on the upper stream of the river will have adverse ecological effects on fish and agricultural practices.
5. Some of the countries do not have data on typical climatic conditions and existing characteristics, which are necessary perquisites for the application of wind and solar energy.
6. Lack of information available on the existing situation within some countries or target areas that would view or identify social, economic and technical issues of the enduser; such as "Needs Identification for Rural Development».
7. Some countries do not have sufficient resources of sustainable energy expertise within their daily working environments as a point of reference to advise on a multitude of everyday problems.
8. Sustainable energy is still being perceived as expensive (more so in some countries than others), however attractive financing mechanisms do hardly exist.
9. Users lack access to attractive finance within local and isolated areas, particularly where people are poor. There seem to be no specific energy related loans available from the local/national banks or from agricultural financing institutions.
10. Lack of strategic dissemination approaches (including financing mechanisms) for indigenous in-country purposes to create consumer demand for sustainable energy technology.
11. Lack of uniformity in the technical skills of tradesmen, craftsman for installation and maintenance.
12. No common technical or quality control standards of the existing technologies that are already in the market place (as to identify prototype designs for justifying consumers).
13. Insufficient policy support by therespective governments to view the role of sustainable energy in a more social and economic light for rural development (particularly where in some countries 80% of the rural population are without electricity). Policy makers still tend to view sustainable energy systems in a micro-economic scale, instead of conceiving them on macro-economic terms for the country as a whole.
14. Lack of in-depth macro economic analysis comparing centralised conventional power plants with decentralised renewable systems.
15. Limited networking between focal points and with other local organisations within their local working environments to commonly promote sustainable energy use for rural social and economic development as a whole.
16. There is no multi-lateral co-operation between any of the countries in the Mekong region to share and develop sustainable energy use.
17. Very little exchange of short/long term plans across the borders of neighbouring countries to inform of efforts to develop sustainable energy through national projects and programmes.
Growing demand for decentralised energy
The list on its own makes a strongcase for an organisation such as CORE. In many cases, individual countries do not have the necessary data or background information to promote sustainable energy on their own, but a regional network could quickly assemble and disseminate it. However, when the list is related to actual conditions in the five participating countries, the rationale for CORE becomes even stronger. Against such a background, it could clearly play a vital role in helping member countries meet a rapidly growing demand for decentralised, affordable environmentally-friendly energy.
Cambodia, for example, still carries the scars of war. Thus, although it has an immense hydropower potential of some 15,000 MW, only 1 MW is utilised, a figure which represents 5 percent of total national installed capacity of 20 MW. Most of this is produced by small, old, expensive, heavily polluting diesel generators whereas solar energy - thermal heating and drying, and photovoltaic (PV) - wind, mini-hydro and biofuel technologies are scarcely known.
One exception is big-gas, which is used to a certain extent, but even here, system efficiency varies greatly. In a recent development, the Department of Energy Development and Promotion (DEDP) in Thailand installed under a technical cooperation project a 3 KW photovoltaic battery charging station with 80 batteries in Cambodia. Tragically, not only are such benign forms of energy very little used, but the country lacks much of the capacity to introduce them. It has virtually no background data, textbook information, technical skills or awareness, and lacks both the funds and the trained cadres to produce these things.
A "sustainable energy ladder" in the region
The Lao PDR is better situated in that some 16 % of households have electricity, and the country does have a cadre of professional bureaucrats, teachers and technicians as well as a more robust economy. However, only two percent of the rural population have access to electricity, several of the country's 17 provinces not being connected to a central grid. Moreover, although it exports hydropower to Thailand, the Lao PDR has only a small number of mini-hydro installations, and most of the other renewables are only now being investigated. Thus although it has much greater indigenous capacity than Cambodia, in practice it is at much the same level of sustainable energy use.
SR Vietnam is perhaps the next country up the region's sustainable energy "ladder". Some 20 percent of its villages are connected to a public grid, it already has some 600 PV installations, mainly in the mountainous border areas, and has active PV development programmes in co-operation with France and the USA (Solar Electric Lighting Fund, SELF). Yetsome 70 percent of the rural population still rely on kerosene for lighting, and many "electrified" homes must use expensive batteries that, recharged from a diesel generator, are sufficient for only a 20 watt bulb and a TV set. And although solar thermal, solar drying, biogas and mini-hydro potentials are good, none of these technologies are in fact really widely used.
Thailand too has until comparatively recently largely ignored sustainable energy. Thus although most of the country is now electrified, some 3,000 villages still lack connections to a public grid. And although it now installed, some 2 MW of PV systems mainly for telecommunications, lighting, and solar pumping, plus 50,000 m² of solar thermal installations, mini-hydro and solar drying are still not widely used. A nationwide anaerobic fermentation programme for small and large biogas systems (energy recovery from and treatment of agricultural wastes) is supported by the National Energy Policy Office (NEPO) and the Energy Conservation Fund of Thailand. A strong institutional base exists and as constraints to expanded use of conventional sources of energy increase, so greater attention is being paid to renewables. Depending on legislative and administrative changes, sometimes difficult in a changeable political climate, renewables could quickly become more important.
Yunnan is thus at the top of the ladder, producing some 0.5 MW annually of its own PV cells and modules that are used mainly for communications and lighting. It also produces around 100,000 m² of solar thermal collectors a year in 100 factories, solar water heating now being the conventional technology. Biogas is another widely used technology, as is mini-hydro. But as in all other countries in the region, solar drying technology has so far been little developed. And even Yunnan has difficulties, particularly a lack of promotion and awareness of the range of available renewable technologies, mainly because they are still often wrongly assumed to be too expensive. It could also benefit from more regional co-operation.
Since March 1996, SR Vietnam has launched a solar energy commercialisation initiative. Bilateral PV cooperation has begun between Thailand and Cambodia, Thailand and SR Vietnam, Yunnan and SR Vietnam, and Lao PDR and SR Vietnam, this last link being particulary active. Lao PDR-Thailand biogas co-operation has also begun, and Thailand has launched a solar drying technology initiative. The biggest single advance has been a second seminar on solar energy, "Financing and Commercialisation of Solar Energy Activities in Southand East Asia" held at Kunming, Yunnan 26-30 August 1996, supported by Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft (CDG) in Germany.
Some of the main conclusions of the seminar were that there is an enormous solar energy potential in Southeast Asia. The technology is now mature and is well suited to decentralised applications because it is modular. Present cost constraints could be overcome by combining existing bilateral and multilateral financing instruments in order to introduce and disseminate large numbers of solar systems both in the countryside and to industry.
Commercialisation could be promoted if solar system manufacturers and suppliers offered comprehensive energy services in response to well defined consumer needs rather than just selling the technology.
Bright prospects for sustainable energy
But even this vigorous activity is just a beginning. It remains to be seen what administrative and institutional constraints have to be overcome to transform the potential into reality.
However, the Councilis not standings/ill. It will meet again in February 1997 in Vientiane, Lao PDR to discuss ways of increasing its formal presence in the region, and to up-date its work plan. A third regional seminar on solar energy is being planned for Hanoi in late 1997. In another development, the secretariat of CORE has been approached by the National Energy Policy Office (NEPO), Thailand, to organise a high-level seminar in order to discuss existing policies and propose amendments on PV technology and application for the Thai government. At least the prospects for rapid adoption of sustainable energy technologies in the region are bright. It remains to be seen what the actual outcome will be.
Tous les pays arrospar le fleuve Mekong possnt d'importantes ressources rgques renouvelables. «CORE»", le Conseil de l'rgie renouvelable fondn mars 1995, a constatoutefois que ces ressources n'ient pas exploit de mani optimale, essentiellement par manque d'informations, et que les diffntes rgies ient diversement utilis selon les pays.
CORE est nmoins parvenu a conclusion qu'un rme potentiel existe dans la ron pour les rgies renouvelables. Le facteur dsif pour leur mise en valeur vent des mods de financement adapt
Los pas riberedel rMekong disponen de amplios recursos de energrenovable. No obstante, «CORE», el consejo sobre energrenovable fundado en marzo de 1995, ha constatado que la utilizacie estos recursos no es ma debido a la carencia de informaciAdem las diversas formas de energson utilizadas de manera diferente en cada pa Sin embargo, CORE ha llegado a la conclusie que existe un gran potencial de energrenovable en la regiEl factor decisivo pare su explotacistriba en el uso de modelos adecuados de financiaci
Supporting renewable energy technology transfer
by Tien-ake Tiyapongpattana and Bundit Na-Lamphun
Technology transfer is crucial to the sustainable development of renewable energy. To get to know more about renewable energy, a group of Vietnamese scientists and technicians attended training courses and had a look at renewable energy applications.
A good example of the kind of co-operative activity that is taking place among members of the " Council on Renewable Energy in the Mekong Region (CORE)" occurred in late July-early August 1996, when five scientists and technicians from four Vietnamese institutes visited Thailand on a two-week study tour that included trips to renewable energy sites in the north, a training course on domestic and industrial solar energy applications at the Solar Energy Research and Training Centre (SERT) at Phitsanulok, another training course on solar encapsulation processes organised by BP Solar Co. Ltd. in Bangkok together with a visit to the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) Energy Park, and a further trip to a hybrid wind and solar power station in Phuket in the south. All five visitors gave the training project high marks.
The original idea for the project emerged when the Department for Development of Solar Electricity (SOLARLAB) within the Vietnam National Centre for Natural Science and Technology participated in the 1994 seminar in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, on the state of the art and prospects for photovoltaic (PV) systems in Thailand and neighbouring countries (cf. previous story). SOLARLAB found the seminar such a good opportunity to exchange experiences and transfer technology that it approached the two sponsors - the Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation (DTEC), Thailand and «Deutsche Gesellschaft fhnische Zusammenarbeit" (GTZ) to see whether further technology transfer could be arranged.
Durant l' 1996, un groupe de scientifiques et de technicians vietnamiens s'est rendu en Thailande pour se familiariser avec les technologies de mise en valeur des rgies renouvelables. Dans le cadre de leur voyage, ils ont pris part n snaire sur les rgies nouvelles. L'initiative du projet revient au drtement " SOLARLAB " du Centre vietnamien des sciences de la nature et des technologies.
En verano de 1996, un grupo de cientcos y ticos vietnamitas visitilandia con el objetivo de informarse sobre las diferentes formas de energrenovable. En el marco de su viaje, participation en un seminario sobre este tema. El proyecto fue iniciado por el departamento "SOLARLAB" del Centro Vietnamita de Ciencias Naturales y Tecnolog
The upshot was that in December 1995, SOLARLAB submitted a formal proposal. Five solar experts from Vietnam would visit Thailand for two weeks to undertake the training described above. The project would be jointly sponsored by DTEC, the GTZ/ISAT project, and the International Training Institute for Materials Science (ITIMS) in Vietnam with facilitation by RISE-AT.
Two of the solar experts came from SOLARLAB itself in Ho Chi Minh City while the other three came, respectively, from the Institute of Energy, Hanoi, the Renewable Energy Centre, Hanoi, and the Renewable Energy Centre, Can Tho. They arrived on July 22, 1996 and were immediately plunged into an intensive two week programme.
Visits to solar plants
The first three days included orientation at RISE-AT, an introduction to the Energy Development and Promotion Department's (DEDP) photovoltaic battery charging programme in Thailand, and trips to nearby mini-hydro, geothermal and PV charging sites. The group then travelled to Phitsanulok for three days of intensive study on solar energy applications for domestic and rural industrial use. Solar drying and solar charging sites were also visited.
Constraints to the application of renewable energies in rural areas were discussed.
Moving on to Bangkok, the group spent four days learning PV encapsulation processes step by step at BP Solar Co.'s factory and visiting AIT's Energy Park. As a result of the visit, BP Solar and SOLARLAB have begun a formal cooperation agreement. The group saw solar hot water, solar pumping, solar cooking end PV systems at the AIT-Energy Park. The final four days were spent at Phuket, southern Thailand, and hosted by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), where after a wellearned day off, participants visited a hybrid wind and solar power station of EGAT that could also be used in rural Vietnam. The outcomes of the trip are as follows:
First, senior Vietnamese solar experts have been exposed to a range of new technologies, particularly PV encapsulation and hybrid systems, which they will begin to implement in their own country, working directly with the contacts they made during the trip. Since the visit, SOLARLAB has started its own solar assembling and encapsulation line in Ho Chi Minh City.
Second, the technologies transferred in this way to SR Vietnam will be further disseminated when Vietnam, under its treaty of friendship with Lao PDR, in turn demonstrates them to Lao technicians.
More generally, of course, the project has helped to fulfill the goals of the "Council on Renewable Energy in the Mekong Region" - broader awareness among governments, the private sector and research institutes of all renewable energy technologies and their applications in the region, the ultimate goal being to promote its sustainable development through greater use of alternative technology.
Information services in South East Asia
by Suvit Tia and Terry Commins
Technical information exchange in the ASEAN countries has not kept pace with their rapid transition to industrially based economies. TIS aims to help bridge this gap by providing a comprehensive information service.
Of the seven members which make up the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), most are newly emerging economies making the transition from an agricultural base to an industrial base through greater use of technology.
In many cases, traditional information services in these countries are still at the developing economy stage and are unable to meet the rising demand for easier and better access to both new and appropriate technologies. Funding remains restrictive for libraries while information costs (e.g. journal subscriptions) continue to rise and the volume of information available continues to proliferate. Academics, researchers and students in provincial areas often have even less access to information sources than their counterparts in the larger universities. Also, university libraries generally feel that their responsibility has ended once students graduate. Whereas, in reality, most of these students join the private sector, the driving force behind technology development and application, where there is a continuing need for technical information. There has been a trend in developing countries, where budgets are limited, for librarians to become guardians of information rather than service providers.
A further problem is that many of these newly emerging economies are also themselves starting to generate a lot of information, much of which has relevance to other countries in the region. Mechanisms for facilitating technical information exchange amongst countries in the region have not matured at a pace equal to the need. Similarly, as these economies grow they provide greater market and investment opportunities for the developed nations, who are thus also interested in technology developments in the region.
Development of TIS
In 1990, the ASEAN Sub Committee on Non-Conventional Energy Research (SCNCER) was undertaking collaborative research programmes on renewable energy with Australia, Canada, the EC and New Zealand. Committee members saw a need to keep abreast of technology developments in support of the projects they were working on. They also perceived a requirement for a mechanism facilitating better information exchange amongst the participating countries in the region. Thus the idea for a selective dissemination of information (SDI) service on renewable energy was born. This was supported by a regular newsletter covering activities of the SCNCER.
Basically, the SCNCER Technical Information Service (TIS) entails the establishment of a database covering titles of articles from journals, proceedings and reports. Special emphasis is given to material on the ASEAN region. Probably for historical reasons regarding the SCNCER's projects, emphasis is also given to material out of the mainstream, such as Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and South Africa. Subscribers are sent a printout of new titles every month, from which they can indicate titles of interest. The printouts are returned by mail and copies of the articles are supplied to subscribers.
At its peak, TIS was servicing over 1,000 subscribers in 117 countries. However, a survey of users, together with the introduction of a small fee in 1994, has seen the number of subscribers drop back to around 500.
Seeing the value of such services, particularly to industry, PDTI decided to establish a Technical Information Service (TIS) unit in 1993, with the addition of a service covering food technology. Since that time, the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) has contracted TIS to provide a service on biotechnology, while PDTI have also added a further service on environment. All are funded by the Thai government. TIS now provides regular information services to more than 3,000 subscribers in over 100 countries worldwide - the majority being in developing nations. The SCNCER-TIS continues to receive support from Australia, the EC and New Zealand. Total running costs for all of the four services are around US$130,000 each year, the bulk of which is provided by the Thai government.
The SDI concept goes part of the way towards meeting the demand for better information services. By sharing information amongst a wide variety of users It is economically appropriate for developing or newly emerging economies. The service also allows users a more judicious choice of journals they might subscribe to, or conferences it would be appropriate for them to attend. By focusing on the individual, TIS is able to deliver information direct, bypassing the need to join the queue at libraries. By being selective, TIS also helps reduce the time spent by users in searching for relevant information. One of the major benefits of TIS is that some 50% of its subscribers are from the private sector, where technical information can often be put to immediate use.
For the future, two clearly emerging patterns are evident. The first and most obvious one is developments in information technology itself, with the advent of computers and the Internet. While TIS services will become available on the web in 1997, a recent survey of users in Thailand indicated that less than 5 % have ready access to the internet; thus TIS will continue its regular SDI services for some time to come. This will ensure that more remote subscribers and groups such as NGOs continue to benefit.
The second pattern which is emerging is the increased demand for even more specialised services, particularly from the private sector. While research papers continue to beuseful for academia, the private sector is more interested in market trends and opportunities, import regulations, developments in world trade and quality enhancement. TIS is currently formulating strategies to meet this need.
Dans la plupart des sept pays membres de l'ANASE (Association des nations de l'Asie du Sud-Est), I'industrialisation est en marche. Les services d'information en revanche vent rest'rt de cette lution. Le Service d'information technique TIS a vu le jour dans le cadre de l'ANASE; il se charge de diffuser des informations dans une centaine de pays du monde, surtout dans le domaine des rgies renouvelables.
De los siete miembros del Grupo ASEAN, la mayor parse se encuentra en proceso de industrializaciLos servicios de informacio hen podido evolucionar a la misma velocidad. En el marco de ASEAN, se cre servicio tico de informaciIS, el cual difunde informaci mde 100 pas del mundo, especiaImente en el campo de la energrenovable.
Reintegrating rural families in development
by Charnchai Limpiyakorn and Astrid Faust-Tiyapongpattanar
Technical information exchange in the ASEAN countries has not kept pace with their rapid transition to industrially based economies. TIS aims to help bridge this gap by providing a comprehensive information service.
Appropriate technology/ends by its very nature to be socially benign. In a number of instances, it can therefore be used directly to counteract some of the negative social impacts of conventional development. A good example of this can be found in the cottage-based textile industry in north and northeastern Thailand.
In these regions, carefully phased interventions are reintegrating otherwise marginalised people back into the development process. This is being achieved, in combination with entrepreneurship and marketing training, by introducing improved spinning and dyeing techniques to villagers. Incomes in some villages in consequence nearly doubled in the short period from 1992-1996.
The process began in 1985 when the Appropriate Technology Association (ATA) of Thailand with technical assistance from ISAT among other agencies, began a Local Weaving Development project in Roi-et Province in the impoverished northeastern region. The goal was to help village women become more self-reliant through the formation of weaving groups that would use natural dyes to produce distinctive textiles that would find a ready market.
Trying out natural dyes To begin with, the project's primary objective was to study and experiment with the use of natural dyes from the bark, leaves, trunk and roots of trees as well as from small insects and minerals. Natural dyes had been used traditionally, but knowledge about them had almost died out. Although they can be harmful to health and the environment, synthetic dyes are easier to use.
Natural dyes are usually found in the forest. The project therefore organised village men and youths to collect material from trees, herbs and even crops. Then, starting with a single group of seven women in one village in Roiet Province, the first weavers' group was formed to use this material. This group has been joined by a further 23, and in all the groups now consist of over 500 women in villages in three neighbouring provinces - Roi-et, Srisaket and Surin. Since the quality of their weaving steadily improved, the confidence of the women in these groups increased as well.
Today, they are networking, participating in training workshops and study visits, and even hiring their former advisers as marketing consultants! Some of the women now earn more from weaving than from rice farming. Thus a kind of cottage industrialisation is taking place that releases people from their dependence on agriculture and gives them the benefits of industrialisation without the social and economic dislocations that are so often associated with the conventional process.
But ATA is not the only project in Thailand. Another initiative, called the Small Business and Handicraft Promotion Project (SBHPP) was established five years ago by the University Academic Service Centre (UNISERV) of Chiang Mai University, northern Thailand. The goal here was to complement public sector programmes by such organisations as the Northern Industrial Promotion Centre (NIPC). With technical support from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM) in Frankfurt, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Bonn, the university brought together government and non-government organisations in a wide-ranging home-based handicrafts development project. Happily, through the ILO, the Appropriate Technology Association (ATA) became a major partner.
Initially, appropriate technology was not the central issue at SBHPP at all. It first concentrated on upgrading villagers entrepreneurship and marketing skills, mainly in five northern provinces including Chiang Mail As these skills increased, the participants, mainly women, began to realise the need for better technology to produce goods to acceptable market standards. Hence the introduction of appropriate technology and the involvement of ATA.
Local technology slow
The need for appropriate technology was particularly felt in relation to traditional textiles. The project found that local spinning technology had not changed in centuries, meaning mainly that it was slow, and with very low productivity. Similarly the dyes, either traditional or synthetic, left much to be desired. Colour range and fastness were inferior. Some of the synthetic dyes pose health and environmental hazards. Raw material supplies for traditional dyes often could not be maintained.
In 1994, therefore, ATA and SBHPP developed the technical content of the project. As RISE-AT was formed, it assumed responsibility for technical information search, retrieval and transfer, using among other sources of information ATA's own database on textile technology.
Regarding spinning technology, a multi-step procedure was followed. After first investigating current practices and needs among textile producers in north and northeast Thailand, RISE-AT contacted alternative technology information carriers in Thailand and abroad to see what technology was available. Some of the most important information sources were the Department of Industrial Promotion and the Thai Karen Baptist Convention in Thailand, ISAT/GTZ in Germany, Tools Netherlands and Development Alternatives in India.
On the basis of this information, the partners then collected
samples of spinning machines from Thailand, Burma, India and New Zealand which
were operated under comparable conditions. In the event, 15 spinners watched by
ten non-government and government representatives test-operated all the machines
during a one-day seminar in Chiang Mai that was facilitated by RISE-AT. This
allowed a spinning machine development plan to be outlined in consultation with
both the spinners and the GO and NGO representatives.
The partners then continued to test the spinning machines in the field to draw conclusions for the workshops and to devise further adaptations. On the basis of feedback from the field, prototypes of an electric carding machine and spinning machine were developed by mechanical craftsmen who had participated in the previous steps. The final step - the dissemination of the new equipment - can start once adapting the prototypes has been completed.
As for dyeing, the issues concerned fastness, health and safety. The search for solutions was domestic rather than international and specialised know-how was available through ATA. But the same basic approach of problem and resource identification, followed by hands-on workshops and development, was followed. As with the spinning and carding machines, the full process is still not complete.
A wide range of colours
The proposed solutions were to improve natural dyeing skills and the natural resource base. Better quality, but more expensive, synthetic dyes would solve the problems in that area. Concentrating on traditional dyeing processes, the experience ATA had gained in its work in the northeast proved invaluable. Trial and error with 15 kinds of tree among the 24 village groups in the northeast had produced a wide range of natural colours - yellow, green, brown, grey, pink, red, orange and purple.
Thus with ATA's help, natural dye users from both the north and northeast of Thailand were brought together in a training course that, through the direct exchange of practical information between practicing dyers, produced considerable technological advance. A field survey three months after the course showed a wider range of colours in use than before.
Encouraged by this success, a second training course was organised on colour fastness, process optimisation, and resource base conservation. Positive results were also achieved. Three months after the course, a survey found improved dye quality.
In both projects, however, appropriate technology has not been the only important aspect. In addition, considerable attention has been paid to entrepreneurship and marketing, and to product development. This has led village groups to participate m such sophisticated activities as design clinics, as well as workshops on fabric and embroidery design, new product line development, sewing training and so forth. The northern groups even staged a fashion show, Ethnotex 1996, which was a huge success.
But above all village women in north and northeast Thailand are becoming wealthier, more independent and more self-assured - partly because of these projects.
Les technologies appropri ont favoris'essor nomique de l'industrie du textile dans le nord-est de la Thande. L'association thandaise pour les technologies appropri (ATA) en a lanc'initiative vers le milieu des ann 80 en impulsant la crion de groupements de tisserandes. Rltat: la qualites tissue s'est amoret les intss ont pu accroe notablement leurs revenue.
Gracias al empleo de tecnolog apropiadas, la industria textil en el noreste de Tailandia estxperimentando un auge econo. La iniciativa fue lanzada a mediados de los aochenta por la Asociacie Tecnolog Apropiadas de Tailandia (ATA) mediante la creacie grupos de tejedoras. La calidad de los tejidos ha mejorado, y el nivel de ingresos se ha incrementado significativamente.
The quarterly gate - questions, answers, information is 15 years old
The GATE/ISAT Project would like to celebrate this anniversary with you. On the inside pages you will find three questions that are closely related to the philosophy of this publication. Please answer the questions and send this section of 'gate' back to us when you have filled it in. Each of the three lucky winners will be awarded an air ticket to another continent.
The first edition of the quarterly gate - questions, answers, information appeared in December 1982. It was titled "AT - by whom? for whom? and how?", and started off a debate on the issue of appropriate technology and its application. Since then, several editions of gate have taken up the topic. The editors have always made a point of addressing issues that have a potential to be implemented locally. Right from the onset, the goal was that of enabling the debate on appropriate technology to assist everyday work on a small scale rather than having it proceed merely as a theoretical discourse.
The work of ISAT is based on the experience that even entire programmes are restricted in terms of their effectiveness. Knowledge that is drawn from them and experience gained with it in one region does not simply jump over to another region of its own accord. Active knowledge and information management is necessary in order to really make it accessible and useful for others. With the aid of the "Questions and Answers Service", the "AT Documentation", the "gate publications" series and the quarterly «gate - questions, answers, information" ISAT offers all organisations and institutions in development co-operation a wide range of different services. In addition, ISAT accesses very special regional and local know-how and maintains links with local experts through intensive co-operation with numerous NGOs in countries of the Third World.
Now the quarterly is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary and can boast a readership of around 25,000 that it regularly provides with reports written by experts and specialised journalists on topical issues relating to environmentally and socially compatible technologies. This year, gate also went onto the Internet.
Promoting and networking local know-how and starting up a local dialogue between those who have a problem and those who are offering a solution to it is not only a central task of ISAT but also of the quarterly.
This is the framework for the competition on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the quarterly gate - questions, answers, information.
In the following, you will find three questions. We would like you to fill in the answers and send them back to us. We are looking for short, concise, creative and smart answers to our questions. The entries will be evaluated by a committee. Three winners will be picked from the best answers: one/from Asia, one from Africa and one from Latin America. Each of the winners will be awarded a one-week stay in another continent as a prize, where they will be able to visit a partner organisation of GATE/ISAT. On the way, you will stop over at Frankfurt am Main and can visit our project for three days.
The deadline for entries is March 31, 1997.
What can the South learn from the South?
What can the North learn from the South?
What can the South learn from the North?
Gesellschaft fhnische Zusammenarbeit (GmbH) GTZ
Abt. 402 (GATE/ISAT)
Occupation/area of activity:
Sustainable Agriculture and Appropriate Technology in the Philippines
by Victoria M. Lopez
The policy environment for the promotion of sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology in the Philippines is anything but favourable. Self-initiatives play a major role in efforts at establishing organic farming. The SIBAT network focuses particularly on the poorer farming population.
Efforts at SA/AT- Sustainable Agriculture and Appropriate Technology-in the Philippines are urged more by self-initiatives than by official policy. SIBAT (Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya) is one of many NGOs which have confronted problems posed by lack of coherent and potent policy to promote sustainable agriculture, i.e., the efforts to enhance agriculture in conjunction with natural resource base, ecology, and genuinely empowering community development. Strategies must be boldly taken to address this problem. In the following, the author takes a close look at informational strategy.
SA/AT's policy environment
Leading agricultural policy conditions in the Philippines could be described as a continuing subscription to unsustainable farming practices and agricultural development as a whole. The government's medium-term agricultural development programme, which is geared to intensified cash crop cultivation over diminished hectarages, implies the utilisation of the chemical-based genre of cropping systems accompanying a large-scale shift to monoculture.
While there is already some degree of articulation by executive agencies of the promotion of regenerative technologies, i.e., organic farming this does not jibe one-to-one with macro directions. The translation of such articulation to serious implementing guidelines is wanting. The agricultural research agenda provides some scope for R&D on lowinput but genetic engineering-based technologies; said researches are today subject to scrutiny pertaining to biosafety regulations. In the main, conventional researches continue to dominate the agricultural research scene.
At the locality level, the yardstick for SA adoption, SA collaborations between government and non-government entities face the dilemma of SA policy rhetoric addressing structurally-related elements of rural development while the conventional agricultural development framework yet prevails.
In these collaborations, ecological farming and forestry projects are seen to be weak in delivering the sustainability requirements determined by community needs, such projects being largely coupled to conventional strategies (i.e., commercial or exportation aims consistent with governmental objectives). In this sense, SA collaborations are seen to be still lodged within the conventional framework, where SA processes and premises end up as watered down attachments to the project design.
SA adoption in the country
At the upland on-farm community level (at slopes of 18 and above, which accounts for 57% of Philippine lands), SA programmes straddle over objectives ranging from raising food productivity to ecological/soil enhancement; technological measures similarly reflect a range, strongly addressing productivity and less on chemical input related issues. The uplands embrace a host of structural factors correlating to maintaining abject rural conditions aptly described by the 1996 World Bank's assessment of low quality of life in rural Philippines.
At the lowland on-farm community level, most SA replication successes have been at the individual farming household level, with conditions characterised by middlelevel income and land tenure security - hence with given capacity of the middle-income farmer to invest in time and effort to convert to SA - transform his farming system, and access to information for systems conversion and development.
In the lowlands, the apparent increase in the number of those who have opted to revert back to traditional systems would be more of a result of the fertiliser/pesticide price spiral, the inability of the poor farmer to meet the expensive demand of the highyield scheme rather than a conscious or policy-driven adoption of, or effort to convert to, the integrated organically-based systems.
The areas of SA adoption hover around just 0.01 percent of agricultural areas, largely at a demonstration scale. And the major share of SA efforts are self initiatives - people's organisations, NGOs - rather than policy inspired moves. They are indicative of SA promotion in the country proceeding at a pace that is urged by other factors, rather than by a favourable policy environment. It could be said that among these other factors, SA agencies stand as a quaint moving force, implementing SA largely through self-initiated efforts.
SlBAT's SA concept and strategy
These SA self-initiatives by Philippine NGOs and People's Organisations (POs) bear the bottom-line similarities of appealing to the environment and promoting organic farming. They differ, in emphasis among strategies, approaches and instruments, which include technology development, inter-agency cooperation and integrated systems approach.
The SIBAT Network, which has undertaken one of the oldest self-initiatives in Sustainable Agriculture (PAN-AP, Phil. Country Profile, 1995), has covered all three approaches and more, but has put greater emphasis on concern for the overwhelming poorer farming population.
Technologically, it has largely covered upland and rolling lowland-upland intermediate areas (in lower, middle and high altitude uplands), and has gone through a decade of a verification-demonstration phase on technologies for upland development. Today, it has embarked on community adoption scale.
In search for the technological alternatives to the Green Revolution, focus has thus been placed on developing and upgrading the traditional mode of production. Rich experience has been gained in almost a decade of SIBAT's work. During this period, it has concentrated its efforts and resources in technology verification and farm trials, documentation and information dissemination; training workshops and conferences on various fields of SA, as well as on the issues constraining SA promotion. It has, as well, facilitated support for the implementation of SA related projects of its members and their PO beneficiaries. In all, these efforts have contributed to the assertion of viability and appropriateness of SA to the situation and socio-economic needs of the farming communities.
Ground efforts and policy
SA efforts at the on-farm and community levels have increased perceptibly, in the face of constraints allowed and supported by policy conditions. Hence SIBAT saw the need to directly address policy. SIBAT has addressed the broad public, one, through fora and demonstration, specifically through the ECOFAIR, a trading fair and showcase of appropriate technology advances from the field level. SIBAT has managed SAN, the Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter, put together by a pool of SA agencies and individuals from the academe. In one case, SIBAT has initiated and linked efforts by entities in confronting the pesticide menace in the court and legislative arena.
In all these activities, SIBAT has endeavored to link local experience and policy formulation - a deductive approach to policy development, borne out of its intrinsic strength with ground experience.
SIBAT's SA concept rests on the belief that the availability of genetic resources is strategic to the success of sustainable agriculture and peoples' development. Without them, efforts in sustained and selfreliant alternative agriculture will not succeed. With increasing genetic uniformity, SIBAT's SA has been faced with the challenge of retrieval, propagation and dissemination of what genetic resources are yet on hand.
In this regard, establishing community seedbanks as a genetic conservation strategy is proven to be of qualitative significance in advancing sustainability in the farming system as farmers' hold on seeds is ensconced and strengthened. The CSBs have been constituted from an indigenous knowledge-base as collection repositories for retrieved varieties and as village centres for in-situ breeding, selection, and stock improvement. Pilot experience in regions has produced not merely a long list of seed material in the farmers' hands, but the condition of availability of seeds for year-round production.
SIBAT's concept of appropriate technology carries the varied premises of viability and adaptability to specific conditions, and serving the gains especially of the poorer rural sectors. One such technology that meets criteria mentioned is the Microhydro Technology (MHP).
The MHP is a technology that does not stand alone as an electrification source, but one which foremostly serves the identified economic needs of the community; MHPs serve the SA needs of agricultural communities. In such a community-based effort, the community is involved throughout most processes, and all other entities assist towards the direction of capacitating the PO for management.
The MHPs in the SIBAT Network have resulted in the electrification of the village, savings in kerosene wicklamp costs, and in payment responsibilities commensurate with all considerations including capacity to pay. There has been a tangible impact in that access and means to mill rice are cheaper, meaning real savings for the household.
The MHPs in the SIBAT Network have directly served the benefit of the women in the community, who have been traditionally charged with rice-pounding and other postharvest processing tasks, eased by the MHP device.
The MHPs in the SIBAT Network have been developed by combined efforts of member organisations and their appropriate technology personnel. An MHP unit is a result of an integration and sharing of efforts.
The CSB and MHP experiences demonstrate various networking elements at work: sharing of information and lessons, farmer-farmer seed exchanges (for the CSB), and, project co-operation by a group (for the MHP).
The above illustrations of self-initiative further demonstrate the role of careful research work and information build-up: a consolidation of the wealth of indigenous knowledge in the community, experiences written m case or technology literature, and experiences by other practitioners shared during trainings and farmer-farmer exchanges. These are attested to by instruction modules that are constantly expanded to incorporate incoming experiences.
Information thus flows out from sources to create SA realities on the ground. Looking anew, information from the ground can flow back to yet another level, that is, towards creating policy insights. The above experiences on CSBs and MHPs are a veritable source for influencing directions in the policy areas of genetic conservation and energy development.
Future concept and main adjustments
The challenge at present is to dare to upscale and push adoption in the face of the policy environment described. The networking instruments and strategies need to be further sharpened to meet the exigencies of the times, including policy constraints. Meanwhile, the challenge in the policy influencing arena is to find its link with SA initiatives and results. Information is one such link.
Sharpening the informational tool
In carrying out work on the ground, SIBAT has over the years rightfully given focus to informational capacity building among its programmes. In the early verification period, it built STRCC, the Science and Technology Resource Collection Center, an information centre unequalled in its wealth of SA material that has been amply utilised by researchers, students and NGO workers for such application areas as the CSB and the MHP projects.
STRCC has assisted in directly translating information, research and experiences, into useful material for direct usage by farmers. Today, STRCC consists of a growing documentational proof of SA viability.
Information is yet an area where SIBAT sees an exigency to continuously and boldly develop in this period. It has been recognised that the upscaling of SA in the mediumterm shall require corresponding improvement in information capacities and resources, and adjustment of strategies. The current situation calls for wider networking and exchange of information.
The problems that beset the present information capacity and system need addressing. One, research and documentation efforts to link practice and its results to policy advocacy have been weak. Results of SA practices either remain undocumented or in their raw unpackaged form, which is too weak to serve as basis for policy development as well as technology replication. This is also due to a lack of skills needed by agencies to transform research data into useful material.
Two, there is the inaccessibility of information sources and the difficulty to reach remote target areas. Most information compiled remains unaccessed or unused in the information centres, which, in turn, are usually located in urban areas.
Three, there is a lack of effective linkages among information centres, which have differing specialisation sujects and material. They are not effectively exchanged nor made known to other centres or to the interested public in general.
By and large, information (written, visual) has shown its potential as an instrument of self-initiative. It has contributed not only in increasing public awareness but in developing the current knowledge base for SA adoption. The SA information system has already been assigned its generic meaning (i.e., mix of traditional and modern knowledge systems where the former consists the base).
Role of modern information technology
Because information technology has advanced to its current state today, SA groups could appropriately utilise elements to enhance the in-formation build-up and exchange. Using the Electronic Bulletin Board (EBBS) will enable information sharing among network members and others.
Thus technical information and messages can easily be accessed by users equipped with only a personal computer, a modem and a telephone line. The EBBS is the simplest and cheapest means of information networking or link-up that will allow the required flow and exchange with the present capabilities by NGOs and POs.
The need to address policy development is an exigent issue which once it has been addressed, is believed to ease the path for SA promotion. SIBAT's current thrust on ground adoption attaches a great deal of importance to the subject of information, this time, to meet the challenge of linking work on the ground with influencing policy development.
Aux Philippines, la promotion de l'agriculture durable et des technologies appropri est plute fait d'initiatives priv que de la politique officielle. Tandis que le gouvernement mise sur les monocultures et les engrais chimiques, un grand nombre d'ONG et de groupements villageois se vent formpour dndre l'environnement et l'agriculture organique. Le rau SIBAT veut dlopper les modes culturales traditionnelles. Il a on actif l'organisation de snaires et d'ateliers et des mesures encourageant la crion de barques de semences villageoises en vue de prrver le patrimoine gtique pour l'agriculture.
En Filipinas, el empleo de mdos agropecuarios con efecto sostenible y el uso de tecnolog apropiadas se promueve mbien mediante iniciativas privadas que por intermedio de la polca oficial. Mientras que el gobierno apoya fuertemente el empleo de monocultivos y el uso de sustancias qucas, se hen formado gran cantidad de ONGs y grupos a nivel de los pueblos, los cuales se orientan hacia la utilizacie mdos ecolos y al fomento de la agricultura orgca. La red SIBAT incentiva primordialmente el uso de los mdos de cultivo tradicionales. SIBAT organiza seminarios y talleres, y promueve especialmente la creacie bancos de semillas a nivel de pueblos, a fin de preserver los recursos gencos de la agriculture.