Intersections of Social and Environmental Change in Southeast Asia
Piti Srivongchai and Ly Quoc Dang, Graduate Fellows of the Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia Partnership (UCRSEA), will be presenting their research papers on November 17, 2017 at York University, 12:30 pm-2:15 pm.
Piti, who is a doctoral candidate at Khon Kaen University, will present his paper, “Guidelines to Reduce Individual Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions for Low Carbon City in Khon Kaen, Thailand”. This is a qualitative study which investigated the changes in individual human lifestyle that are necessary to contribute to the reduction of GHG through the Low Carbon City initiative in the Khon Kaen municipality, Thailand. Seven conditions of individual behaviour that impact GHG reduction were examined: character, knowledge, attitude, motivation, persuasion, role models and equipment support. Based on his findings, guidelines for improving individual contributions through Low Carbon City to reduce GHG have been proposed.
Dang’s paper is on “Gender Inequality and Urban Floods in Can Tho City, Vietnam.” Using a feminist political ecology framework, he examines gendered relationships in terms of rights, roles and responsibilities in families and communities affected by floods in Can Tho, Vietnam. Based on fieldwork, he also seeks to understand the impact of women’s involvement in flood management and environmental and climate justice. Dang is a doctoral candidate in Women’s and Gender Studies at Chiang Mai University, Thailand, and a researcher at Can Tho University of Vietnam.
All are welcome. Please RSVP to email@example.com.
Doing Fieldwork in the Global South
The UCRSEA Partnership Project is holding a seminar on “Doing Fieldwork in the Global South” on 9 November 2017, 2:00-4:00 pm at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. This is especially relevant to students who are interested in undertaking field research in Asia. Dr. Gwenn Pulliat, UCRSEA Postdoctoral Fellow, organized the event and will include UCRSEA-funded students who carried out their research in partner countries in Southeast Asia.
UCRSEA Graduate Fellowship Recipients at York University
Piti Srivongchai of Khon Kaen University and Ly Quoc Dang of Chiang Mai University are the 2017 UCRSEA Graduate Fellowship recipients. They will spend 12 weeks (September-November) at York University’s Centre for Asian Research under the supervision of Prof. Douglas Young, UCRSEA Co-Investigator.
Piti will work on his research on “Low Carbon City Model for Khon Kaen Municipality”, which aims to investigate factors that influence individual carbon emission behavior and propose the guidelines to reduce the carbon emissions for Khon Kaen. Dang, on the other hand, plans to analyze data he has collected for his research on “Gender Dimensions of Flooding Vulnerability and Governance in Can Tho, Vietnam” and to write a paper or two. While in Toronto, they will also meet with other project staff based at the University of Toronto, attend the Canadian Council of Southeast Asian Studies (CCSEAS) Conference on 26-27 October, and participate in other UCRSEA activities such as the Virtual Seminars.
The fellowship is designed with a self-directed approach and a focus on individual research and study related to urban climate change and resilience in Southeast Asia.
New Postdoctoral Fellow joins UCRSEA in October 2017
Dr. Yanjun Cai is UCRSEA’s Postdoctoral Fellow for 2017/2018 and is expected to join the project in October 2017. She completed her PhD in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in December 2016. Her doctoral dissertation, “Photovoice for Vulnerability: Resilience Building in the Philippines”, was funded by the Toyota Foundation and recognized by the MIT Climate CoLab Popular Choice Award. Dr. Cai has years of research and practice experience in resiliency planning, environmental policy, participatory governance, and community capacity building in the Asia-Pacific region. She has worked with a number of organizations, including the Asian Development Bank, University of the Philippines, University at Albany, and NGOs in the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.
3rd Annual Workshop of the Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia Partnership: Collaborative research for the future of cities
Battambang, Cambodia – 01/06/17. On May 8th 2017, the Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia Partnership (UCRSEA) opened its third annual workshop in Battambang, Cambodia, with an address by H.E. Nguon Ratanak the Provincial Deputy Governor of Battambang and keynote speech by Prof. Jonathan Rigg of the Department of Geography and Director of the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, a well-known figure in Southeast Asian research communities.
Battambang, chosen as the site of the workshop and one of UCRSEA’s partner cities due to its potential for rapid urban and economic growth, has a municipal government with a unique interest in climate change and associated risks.
“Our ancestors told us we must think first, do later. So this [urban climate resilience] research aligns with our saying because we have to think a lot or else create impacts later,” said H.E. Nguon Ratanak through a translator. This foresight perhaps comes from necessity. “People in this region are familiar with climate [disasters],” he continued. Battambang City and the greater Battambang province have experienced both drought and severe flooding in recent years.
Due to Battambang’s susceptibility to climate disasters, which can also be exacerbated by the urban sprawl the city is experiencing, it is one of the few in the region with a master plan for urban development that includes an awareness for climate change’s impacts on building a “livable, healthy, [and] prosperous city.” H.E. Nguon Ratanak, however, noted that the plan is “not perfect” and welcomed the chance for the assembled researchers to help improve it.
In his keynote address, Dr. Jonathan Rigg also addressed the future of communities such as Battambang, which straddle the line between urban and rural. He analyzed how the urbanization process and the change in the environment impact residents’ livelihoods and reshape urban poverty and vulnerability.
Battambang’s growth points to a larger trend of economic development in Southeast Asia. The percent of the population living on less than 1.25 USD has shrunk rapidly from 40% in 1990 to 14% in 2010. Yet, Dr. Rigg argued that this statistic alone obscures more complex realities of change. While on paper, poverty may be on its way to “eradication”, according to the World Bank poverty threshold, participating more actively in a capitalist economy comes with its own set of vulnerabilities as people sell off farmland to participate in short-term labor contracts in cities and factories, and the booming population of such urban areas outstrips the capacity of the current infrastructure – as typically witnessed by the insufficiency of waste and water management infrastructures.
Based on the case studies of eight secondary cities in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, UCRSEA’s work aims to illuminate the impacts of climate and environmental change on Southeast Asia’s changing landscape and growing economy. That goal can only be achieved with the collaboration of municipal governments, such as Battambang’s, that are tasked with governing some of the most rapidly changing areas in the region.
UCRSEA is a five-year partnership between the University of Toronto, the Thailand Environment Institute, and multiple other partners in the Greater Mekong Sub-region sponsored by IDRC and SSHRC. The Partnership is currently in its third year.
UCRSEA Panels at the 2017 Annual Conference of Canadian Association of Geographers
On May 31, 2017, UCRSEA organized a double panel session, “Addressing the Challenges of Urban Climate Change Resilience and Vulnerability in Southeast Asia” at the Canadian Association of Geographers 2017 Conference. UCRSEA staff members and students presented their research conducted under the UCRSEA project.
The first panel was comprised of the following four presentations:
- Leaving the coast: the interplay of migration, well-being and resilience in Cambodian coastal fishing communities by Furqan Asif (University of Ottawa)
- The cascading impacts of migration and environmental challenges: Experiences of Myanmar labour migrants in Phuket, Thailand by Angelica de Jesus (University of Toronto)
- Migrants, Landlords and the Law on Residence: Vulnerability in Hanoi’s Uncounted Population by Jonathan de Luca (York University)
It’s not just the climate that is changing: climate-adaptive development in industrializing coastal Koh Kong, Cambodia by Jason Horlings and Melissa Marshcke (University of Ottawa)
Furqan discussed the role migration plays as a livelihood strategy in fishing communities in Koh Kong, Cambodia. He also examined the discordance between material wellbeing and subjective wellbeing. He concluded by emphasizing the ‘interweaving’ of the rural and urban and how this is catalyzing a mobility transformation in Cambodia. Angelica brought to the audience’s attention the challenges faced by Myanmar migrants in Phuket and how these conditions are linked to the structural violence in society. She also highlighted how social constructs, such as gender, residency status, place, and family, have shaped labor migrants’ lives in Phuket. She used case studies of water supply and their housing conditions to show how these migrants have become highly vulnerable to climate risks. Jonathan revealed the social and political complexities within which informal workers and migrant residents of Hanoi negotiate access to essential services such as water and housing. He showed how they are more vulnerable to climate risks because of their limited access to these services. He also illustrated how unequal power relations adversely affect their resilience. Finally, Jason examined the climate-adaptive capacity of residents in Koh Kong who work at a special economic zone. He found that while SEZ employment is strengthening their development capacities, their climate-adaptive capacities remain weak. He concluded by highlighting the importance of household agency which is needed to reorganize livelihood strategies and locations in order to positively influence climate adaptive development.
The second panel included these three presentations:
- Pushed to the Edge: Citizenship, Vulnerability, and the Temporal Allocation of Rights and Protections in the Informal Settlements of Khon Kaen, Thailand by Nathan Stewart (University of Toronto)
- Building Resilience of the Poor to Climate Change in Thailand’s Secondary Cities: Case Study from Khon Khaen by Danny Marks (University of Toronto)
- Urban Governance of Flooding in Myanmar: A Case Study of Bago by Graham Reeder (York University)
Nathan found that the entitlements of slum communities in Khon Kaen are being blocked by the State Railway of Thailand’s ownership of the land on which they reside, which denies them access to basic services and creates uneven vulnerability to climate risks. His presentation calls for us to recognize the importance of socioeconomic and political factors in constraining adaptive capacity. Danny’s research focused on two slum communities in Khon Kaen long the railway tracks, where the vast majority of residents lack access to tap water. In particular, these residents were badly affected by the climate-induced droughts of 2015 and 2016 because groundwater dried up. Danny concluded with recommendations of how to improve these residents’ resilience to drought. Graham discussed the governance of flooding in Bago, a city which experienced heavy flooding in 2015, by international, national, and local actors. He found that how flooding is understood as a disaster is shaped by social and economic forces in the community as well as the state. He also cautioned against flood response measures which may require budgets or technical capacities beyond the government’s means. The three presentations were followed by an excellent discussion of the papers by Douglass Young, a professor at York University.
Although the presenters conducted research in different locations throughout Southeast Asia, a couple of key similarities emerged between all of the presentations. First, they are all rich, empirical case studies of how urban vulnerability is socio-environmental, or products of human society interacting with nature, and highly contextual, shaped by specific histories and geographies in each location. Second, these papers thoughtfully engaged with the possibility of enhancing governance capacity around urban climate change impacts, with the goal of improving ordinary people in these cities. They hopefully believed that we have the capacity to alter relationships within society in order to positively build resilience of these people.
UCRSEA Partnership Project mentioned in Reuters News
An article in Reuters on Bangkok’s flooding problem features an interview with Dr. Danny Marks and mentions the UCRSEA Partnership Project. Read the full article, “Bangkok struggles to protect slum dwellers as floods worsens”.
1st UCRSEA State of Knowledge Paper now available
Becky McMillan’s paper, “Cities, Complex Systems, and Climate Governance: A Critical Review of the Literature”, the first in the series of UCRSEA State of Knowledge Papers, is now out and can be found here. Becky is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at the University of Toronto and is currently conducting her doctoral field research in Venezuela.
Khon Kaen slum communities suffer from state’s failure to provide water
“Section 72 of Thailand’s new constitution states that “the state shall provide quality water resources adequately for the consumption by people.” But within the city of Khon Kaen, the state is failing to adhere to Section 72. Many residents still do not have access to tap water and consequently, must use groundwater for their daily needs.”
Read the entirety of this article, originally from The Issan Record, and contributed by UCRSEA post-doctoral fellow Dr. Danny Marks, on their website.
UCRSEA Partnership Update (January-April 2017)
The latest Partnership Update is now available here.
University of Toronto Graduate Students Spend Summer Internship at Mercy Corps Myanmar and MSU
Three graduate students from the University of Toronto will undertake their summer internships at Mercy Corps Myanmar and Mahasarakham University (MSU), Thailand, from May 15th to August 4th. They are Tammy Chou, Woo Jin Cho and Taylor Whitfield.
Tammy, who will be based at Mercy Corps Myanmar, is currently completing her Master of Science in Planning and Collaborative Program in Community Development. She also holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies, major in Urban Planning, from the University of Waterloo. She is interested in exploring how social equity can be achieved throughout the planning process. During her internship, she will undertake research on the socio-political and environmental impacts of development within the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Myanmar.
Woo Jin Cho, a graduate student at the Department of East Asian Studies, and Taylor Whitfield, a Master of Science in Sustainability Management student, will be based at MSU. They will be both working on research projects in the Pralab Sub-district in Khon Kaen. Cho will provide research support through a situational analysis of the urban wastewater system/management in the Pralab Sub-district and its impact on the vulnerability of communities to urban flood. Meanwhile, Taylor will assist in a comparative analysis of water consumption patterns of one community in the urban area of Khon Kaen and one community in the peri-urban area of Pralab Sub-district and its relevance for extreme drought events.
UCRSEA’s Summer Internship Program is currently in its third year.
UCRSEA Panel Session at the AAG 2017 Conference, 9 April 2017
The UCRSEA Partnership Project held a panel session, “Addressing the Challenges of Urban Climate Change Resilience and Vulnerability in Southeast Asia”, at the Association of American Geographers 2017 Conference on April 9, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. UCRSEA staff and students presented papers on their recent research studies carried out under the Project. Among them are Dr. Gwenn Pulliat, Angelica de Jesus, Nathan Stewart and Furqan Asif. Prof. Amrita Daniere, UCRSEA Co-Director, chaired the session.
Abstracts of the papers can be found here.
International Public Seminar on Urban Floods and Gender Perspectives in Southeast Asia, Chiang Mai University, Thailand, 8 March 2017
Dr. Danny Marks, UCRSEA Postdoctoral Fellow, and Ly Quoc Dang, Ph.D Candidate, spoke at the International Public Seminar on Urban Floods and Gender Perspectives in Southeast Asia”, which was held on March 8th in Chiang Mai University. Danny presented his paper, “The Urban Political Ecology of the 2011 Bangkok Floods”. Dang talked about “Gender Perspectives and Flood Management in Urban Areas of Can Tho City of Vietnam.” The seminar was held on the occasion of International Women’s Month 2017.
Thi Phuong Linh Le, UCRSEA’s 1st Graduate Research Fellowship Recipient
Thi Phuong Linh Le is UCRSEA’s first Graduate Fellowship recipient from Southeast Asia. She arrived at the University of Toronto on February 19th to spend part of the 2017 Winter Term as an International Visiting Graduate Student. Phuong Linh, a second-year Master student in Traffic and Transport from the Vietnamese-German University, has three years of experience working on an urban planning and transportation project in Ho Chi Minh City. Her interests are in transport geography, spatial planning, traffic-related air pollution and urban health.
While at the University of Toronto, Phuong Linh is carrying out her masteral research, which concerns the relationships between transportation development, urban form and CO2 emission in Ho Chi Minh City. She is also expected to participate in UCRSEA activities and in events around the campus relevant to her field of study.
The UCRSEA Graduate Fellowship is a self-directed fellowship which focuses on individual research and study related to urban climate change and resilience in Southeast Asia.
1st Regional Curriculum Development Workshop, Bangkok, Thailand, 7-8 February 2017
The 1st Regional Curriculum Development Workshop was held on 7-8 February 2017 at the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI), in Bangkok, Thailand. TEI and the Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies (FERS), Mahasarakham University (MSU), co-hosted the workshop. Its objectives were to influence teaching and the research agenda in the GMS to address emerging challenges in urban climate resilience and to align with regional and global sustainable development goals. There were 29 participants from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam attended the workshop.
Dr. Pakamas Thinphanga, UCRSEA Co-Director and TEI Programme Manager, and Dr. Yanyong Inmuong, Dean at FERS-MSU, were the main facilitators.
Learn more about the event here.
Citizen Science: Air Quality Training Workshops
From mid-January to early February 2017, UCRSEA held five air quality monitoring workshops in Ninh Binh, Vietnam (12-13 January), Khon Kaen, Thailand (16-17 January), Phnom Penh, Camboda (19-20 January), Battambang, Cambodia (23-24 January) and Yangon, Myanmar (31 January-1 February).
The workshops aimed to teach UCRSEA partners and other participants how to use the Airbeam device (seen here), how to upload the data to the AirCasting website, and how to use the website; teach participants what PM 2.5 is, what its sources are, and why it is harmful to health and the importance of monitoring it; and help participants start thinking about how they can use the Airbeam device for teaching, research, and advocacy.
Partners were expected to develop a work plan for the use of the monitoring devices/application and collection of scientific data. This may include engagement with multiple stakeholders in their respective cities, thus participating in ‘Citizen Science’. Academic partners may develop a teaching course in Science using the devices and application.
Workshop trainors were Dr. Danny Marks, UCRSEA Postdoctoral Fellow, and Harry Li, PhD candidate at the University of Toronto (under the supervision of Prof. Dylan Jones, Department of Physics).
The workshop report is available here.
UCRSEA Partnership Update (September to December 2016)
The latest Partnership Update is now available here.
Dawei Collaborative City Exchange Trip, October 25-28, 2016: Observations and Perspectives – Blog posts from UCRSEA Staff
Blog articles by Jonathan de Luca, UCRSEA Intern and Jasmine An, UCRSEA Communications and Research Associate, are available here.
UCRSEA Working Paper Series: The Politics of Flooding in Bangkok
With the disastrous Bangkok flood of 2011 as backdrop for his case study, Dr. Danny Marks, UCRSEA Postdoctoral Fellow, set out to challenge the dominant approach to examining flooding as the natural and inevitable consequence of climate change rather than a more serious governance issue. In an UCRSEA Partnership Project-hosted seminar held on December 1, Dr. Marks demonstrated how floods are also the result of political and social decisions, which exacerbate, instead of mitigating, the problem and thus, increase the vulnerability of affected communities.
The 2011 flooding was the worst the country experienced in terms of deaths and economic losses. Compared to previous years and as data showed, the magnitude of flooding was not as great as it was in 2011. These would suggest that this calamity was not just a result of nature and climate change, but a combination of both natural and social processes. The latter arose largely due to poor disaster governance in the urban transition of Thailand’s Central Plains. They included mismanagement and the failure of infrastructure, uncoordinated land use change, land subsidence, and the filling in of canals. However, it has been the Thai Government’s practice to implement structural measures to control and manage water and protect communities from it.
Danny argued that an urban political ecology (UPE) approach, which rejects the separation of the urban and the environment, is a more appropriate way of analyzing and finding solutions to the problem. This approach views cities as hybrids and historical products of human-nature interaction. It rejects the separation of nature and city, i.e., that humans have transformed nature in cities. By viewing cities as landscapes of power, UPE raises the question of how power determines who gain access to resources in the city, such as why some urban communities are located where they are.
For his study, Danny employed a two-tier approach: (1) community-based methodology, in which 100 interviews in four communities (Bangkok Metropolis, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi and Samut Sakhon) were conducted focusing on how socioeconomic processes affected vulnerability to the 2011 floods; and (2) actor- and discourse-based methodology, in which 100 key informants were interviewed on how processes were shaped by the practices of discourses by actors at multiple spatial and temporal scales. He also examined and analyzed historical data dating back since the last century, the urbanization and seemingly unequal development of Bangkok and surrounding areas, the Thai Government’s land use and flood management schemes, and socio-economic indicators.
Among his conclusions were: (1) socio-environmental causes led to the 2011 flooding; (2) the most powerful groups in Thailand profited from changes to the urban environment; (3) state practices before 2011 contributed to the floods; (4) the high degree of political and economic inequality contributed to unequal production of vulnerability and hence, injustice; and (5) research on and solutions to flooding must, therefore, be social and political, including addressing power structures.
For more on Danny’s study, go to https://ugecviewpoints.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/the-2011-thai-floods-an-urban-political-ecology-analysis/
UCRSEA presents Case Studies on Building Urban Climate Change Resilience in Southeast Asia
UCRSEA held a seminar on November 1 focusing on findings on recent fieldwork conducted by four graduate students in Cambodia and Thailand. UCRSEA held a seminar on November 1 focusing on findings on recent fieldwork conducted by four graduate students in Cambodia and Thailand.
Angelica de Jesus, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, spoke on the “Dual challenges of migration climate change: Experiences of Myanmar labour migrants in Phuket, Thailand.” Using the framework of structural violence, she discussed how Myanmar labour migrants have been discriminated against by state actors in Phuket and gave examples of discrimination in the healthcare and water sectors. This discrimination, she argued, compounds their vulnerability to the effects of climate change in Thailand. She also highlighted how social constructs, such as gender, residency status, place, and family, shape labour migrants’ lives in Phuket.
Furqan Asif, a PhD student at the University of Ottawa, presented “Leaving the coast: the interplay of wellbeing and resilience for coastal fishing communities in Cambodia”. He discussed how environmental degradation, overexploitation of fish stocks, and the effects of climate change are negatively affecting the abundance and diversity of coastal fisheries, thereby hurting livelihoods and exacerbating poverty in coastal communities in Cambodia. He also discussed how his research seeks to use the social well-being approach to help better understand the resilience of these communities. He also described how migration affects the social well-being of fishermen in his case study communities.
In his presentation, “Deconstructing Perceptions of Vulnerability and Risk in Khon Kaen’s Informal Spaces”, Nathan Stewart, an MA student at the University of Toronto, focused on how climate change vulnerability in informal spaces is perceived and planned for by informal community residents, NGO workers, and government officials in Khon Kaen, Thailand, a secondary city in Northeast Thailand. It is a city with a high informal population which could be negatively affected by the effects of climate change. He contended that a disconnect exists between the understanding of these risks by informal communities and the understanding by government officials and NGOs. He then concluded that these perceptions of vulnerability can influence the development and performance of urban planning policies across multiple scales.
The “Role of Public Participation in Sustainable Development: Building Light Rail Transit in Khon Kaen” was presented by Anshul Bhatnagar, also an MA student at the University of Toronto. He discussed the transportation problems in this city and the different ways stakeholders’ were addressing them. The majority of 55 interviewees felt that a light-rail system is the best response for the city and are confident that this project will bring new opportunities, create jobs and benefit the environment.
Some themes that emerged in the presentations and the question-and-answer sessions were the myth of community solidarity, the linkages between governance structures and vulnerability to the effects of climate change, and the importance of empowering marginalized communities.
UCRSEA Working Paper Series
UCRSEA Postdoctoral fellow, Danny Marks’ paper “The Political Ecology of Urban Climate Justice in Thailand” is now available as part of the UCRSEA Working Papers series. This paper addresses a gap in the literature on urban climate justice by examining inequity at the “urban scale” and adds to growing discussions and acknowledgment about the need for climate justice at the city scale. The study examines instances of climate injustice in Bangkok, Thailand, a city not only highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but also with one of the highest carbon emissions per capita in the world. Ultimately, the main argument presented is that the city’s governance of climate change has unjustly benefited the upper echelon of society, while low-income communities have been adversely affected. Click here to read the paper.
The climate resilience of SEZ employees in Koh Kong, Cambodia
Jason Horlings (Master’s Candidate, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa) spent Fall 2016 in Koh Kong, Cambodia, exploring the climate resilience of employees at the Special Economic Zone in Koh Kong. He shares his experience through photographs taken during his research trip. Access the album here.
UCRSEA Partnership Update
Please find attached our latest Partnership Update (May to August 2016). ucrsea-partnership-update-may-to-august-2016
U of T Sustainability Student Visits Vietnam to discuss communities in need – Mayur Mukati, UCRSEA intern
“At a Symposium lecture “Our World is in Need” by David Begbie, the topic of how the feeling of powerlessness instills inaction was discussed. Begbie argued that even wealthy and powerful people feel that – Jasmine An they are “not big enough” to bring about change. From the C-level executive to the middle manager to the renowned scientist, they all share a nagging insecurity. But with self-awareness and confidence to persevere anyone can be a leader who drives change.”
Read the full story here. http://tsss.ca/2016/08/u-of-t-sustainability-student-visits-vietnam-to-discuss-communities-in-need/
U of T students tackle climate change in Southeast Asia
“Cities are both the cause of and the solution to environmental change,” says Nathan Stewart, a University of Toronto urban planning graduate student. Since April, he has been conducting research in Thailand on the effects of climate change on the population of a city called Khon Kaen, located in one of the poorest regions of the country. Stewart is part of a team of researchers participating in the Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia (UCRSEA) Partnership, a collaboration between academics in Canada and four Asian countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. U of T graduate student Mayur Mukati has been watching the country change from within. He spent the summer working with the UCRSEA team in Yangon, Myanmar. Mukati was observing the urban development of the country, taking note of the barriers getting in the way of healthy growth.
To read full story, please click on link : https://www.utoronto.ca/news/u-t-students-tackle-climate-change-southeast-asia
Reflections halfway through my internship
Anshul Bhatnagar, University of Toronto
The most common question my friends and family back in Canada and India ask is “how is Thailand ?” and most of the time my general reply is “good.” If I am replying to someone who I feel close to, though, then I usually explain about UCRSEA, Mahasarkham city, about the food market Talat-Noi, and I don’t stop talking for next 20 minutes.
Before going ahead with my experience in Thailand and with UCRSEA, I would like to share something about myself. I am a graduate student at the University of Toronto, and I am pursuing my Masters of Science in Sustainability Management. My internship for this programme is the reason behind my visit to Thailand. I was selected as a programme research intern to work with Mahasarakham University (MSU). MSU is a UCRSEA partner organization and provides support through academic research and through opportunities for expanding the UCRSEA network and vision.
The purpose of my internship is to provide assistance to MSU and its activities primarily through research and writing activities. Specifically, I support research on the tram development project and provide analysis on how it contributes to an improved and more sustainable transportation system in Khon Kaen City. My overall duties include, but are not limited to: Write-up of document review and to collect background information about the city’s proposed tram transportation project, focusing on (a) current transportation system in Khon Kaen and project rationale, (b) project development, current status and future steps (including needs and gaps), and (c) usage of sustainability criteria/ concepts/ frameworks/ understanding found in planning documents; identifying and analyzing the role of key stakeholders of the proposed tram transportation project; and analyzing the expected function of the tram and its supporting/ limiting factors by interviewing key stakeholders of the project planning team. I will present my findings at the end of my internship. Apart from these responsibilities, I am also working on developing sustainability guidelines for a smarter transport system specifically for Khon Kaen city.
My experiences are very different and have varied on a different aspect of personal and professional variables, similar to the variance in temperature between Canada and Thailand.
On my first day, I was well received and was provided logistical help. I even got a bicycle on my first day, which marked the end of my journey, which started three days earlier in UBER taxi in Canada. It’s been a month and a half since I have arrived in Thailand and I have experienced so many things. Someone rightly said “Travel is your best teacher.”
On my second day, I was given the opportunity to attend a writeshop conducted by MSU and Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) which was focused on reiterating the UCRSEA’s vision and roadmap. The same day I met Dr. Yanyong Inmuong, Dean of the Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies. He shared his valuable insights on ‘Sustainability’ and how it is perceived in Southeast Asia. He made me feel comfortable and ask me to take one to two weeks to get acclimatized and to understand things. It was a meeting that made me feel safe and accepted. The next milestone entry was attending the Public Consultation Meeting over LRT and BRT arranged by the Khon Kaen Think Tank. I along with Ms. Astrud Lea Beringer and Joel (dear friend and our translator) participated in this meeting; it was my first time to attend a public consultation meeting and to understand the viewpoint of the two most important stakeholders – Planners and the Users. This session also gave me an opportunity to network and meet some administrators who are involved in the smart transport project since the beginning.
After few days I was also given an opportunity to attend a Shared Learning Dialogue conference at Khon Kaen, this was also the first time I attended such a meeting to understand how planning and research work is doen at the ground level. Meeting intellectuals and the opportunity to network was not over here. Soon, I was informed that the President of MSU would like to meet us. It was a small meeting of 15 minutes where I along with other interns and the staff of Faculty of Environment and greeted the President. I also presented him with a Token of appreciation from Canada and UCRSEA.
In my first thirty days, a lot of opportunities were offered, and a free hand was given by my supervisor Astrud and Dr. Kontaros Kaomuangnoi. Dr. Kaomuangnoi is my technical supervisor who provides technical guidance and feedback on my ideas and interests. She takes a constant interest in the work I am doing.
After my first 30 days, I was invited by Pakamas Thinphanga, the programme’s Co-Director, to visit Bangkok for a week and to work on a documentary project for UCRSEA. I also worked with the TEI team to monitor the programme’s web traffic and to make it more user-friendly. This visit also gave me an opportunity to sit along with academics from a different set of areas and to brainstorm on how to make Thailand more sustainable. I am keeping my fingers crossed, as
I was also asked to be a part of a forum of Rockefeller Foundation (upcoming sometime in August) to discuss sustainability from my point of view. Until now MSU and UCRSEA have given me many opportunities to excel on professional and personal fronts.