Posted on 18 September 2014
Pioneer of low-carbon planning
Pioneer of low-carbon planning
Muangklang, National Earth Hour Capital 2014, is one of three model towns in Thailand’s Low Carbon City program. With very limited and mostly local resources, this small town of 17,000 people transformed its environment in the early 2000’s, becoming famous for its green-city development in the process. Highlights are solid waste reduction, natural gas vehicles, and water and air quality improvements. By 2020, Muangklang aims to be even greener, a sustainable and low-carbon city with low levels of waste, high energy-efficiency, and sustainable consumption patterns.
Keywords: sustainable development, solid waste management, low carbon city, river clean-up
Muangklang’s process started in 2001 with the election of Somchai Chariyacharoen, a mayor who wanted to bring the polluted Prasae River back to life, as this river is central to the identity of the Muangklang region (see also Chengdu
). With a budget of only $ 1,300, Chariyacharoen launched a solid waste management system which gradually grew into a comprehensive sustainability program (see also Curitiba
). In cooperation with residents and different stakeholders, the system led to a significant increase in quality of life for the inhabitants.
Instead of constructing a complete building with a sophisticated incinerator, a simple outdoor conveyer belt was set up for waste separation, reuse, and recycling, which significantly reduced waste going to the municipal landfill. The operation paid for itself by selling compost, recyclable materials from the landfill, and locally grown organic vegetables.
Organic wastes are collected and turned into compost sold to farmers, while methane gas captured from the composting displaces conventional fuel sources at the municipal slaughterhouse, helping to lower operational costs. Vegetable and fruit scraps from markets are used to produce effective microorganism concentrate (EM), which is applied to rivers and municipal sewers to improve water quality. Leftovers are fed to animals in the municipality, and resulting manure is collected and sold (see also Shanghai
). To further combat pollution of the river, the municipality introduced grease traps for houses and shops along the river and in the city, and collects grease to transform it into fuel bars, reducing the use of firewood.
To improve air quality, the municipality started a program for free green public transport, investing in brightly-colored and traditional-looking natural gas-powered buses. Traffic has been regulated to reduce congestion, with reduction of car parking, promotion of cycling and walking with dedicated routes, and an introduction of a boat service on the dredged river, reviving this traditional means of transport.
Urban agriculture and greening
Air quality and livability was improved further through a program of urban agriculture and greenery. The city converted unused land and promoted urban farming, not only of vegetables, but also of rice, reviving an old local practice, with the aim of reducing food miles and energy from food transportation. Rice cultivation was further supported through the investment in a municipal rice mill, and in 2012 the city initiated a green market for locally grown organic products. Muangklang municipality has increased the area dedicated to public parks, and is greening abandoned areas with trees and plants.
To improve the energy efficiency of its operations, the municipality introduced a standard for energy and environmental management, ISO 14001. In 2004 Muangklang made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cooperation with ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability, one of the largest global cities networks dedicated to sustainable development. Efficiency measures so far include a change to high-efficiency air conditioners, migration of public lighting to efficient bulbs, solar powered street lights, construction of a high water tower to increase pressure and reduce pumping, more efficient garbage collection, and an energy-efficiency campaign in the community to encourage the use of green products. Muangklang has also started an education program in recycling and sustainable consumption in schools.
Mayor Chariyacharoen also had ambitions for a cultural revitalization. In a traditional festival, or Tham Boon, on the renovated old boat pier, the municipality celebrated the clean-up of the river, and then launched an annual river festival. It has also built a recreational area on the outskirts with a sports complex with soccer field, basketball courts, boules courts, playground, exercise facility, and free natural-gas bus and boat service.
The sustainability efforts of Muangklang are ongoing - the popularity of the program has ensured the reelection of the mayor several times. By 2020, Muangklang aims to be “a green, sustainable, and low-carbon city with low levels of waste, high energy efficiency and sustainable levels of consumption,” as well as “a learning center for Low Carbon Cities for other local governments within Thailand as well as the Greater Mekong region.” In 2011 Muangklang started arranging workshops on the theme “Let’s go Green, Clean and Low Carbon” for both local residents and representatives of neighboring municipalities (see also Montería
Model low carbon city
As Muangklang’s work has become more widely known, it has started cooperation with national and international institutions, such as the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization, the Partnership for Democratic Local Governance in Southeast-Asia (DELGOSEA), the Asia Low Emission Development Strategies Partnership, UN-Habitat and UNDP. It has won several awards, including the Thailand Liveable City Award. It has also been selected as one of three model cities for Thailand’s Low Carbon City program, which aims to achieve reductions in GHG emissions and catalyze a shift to a low-carbon society (see also Baoding and Shanghai
). A Low Carbon City is defined as a community “that pursues a systematic process to achieve GHG emission reductions” and the program has developed a nine-step process to help cities work towards becoming a low-carbon city. Built on self-reliance and few financial resources, Muangklang’s example is one that can be replicable in other small cities.
carbonn Climate Registry, City Climate Report: Muangklang, http://citiesclimateregistry.org/index.php?id=312&tx_datareport_pi1%5Buid%5D=493
Partnership for Democratic Local Governance in Southeast-Asia (DELGOSEA), Best Practices on Local Governance in Urban Public Service Delivery in Southeast-Asia, “Low Carbon City, Muangklang, Thailand”, http://citiesclimateregistry.org/uploads/tx_carbonndata/A9R12E1.tmp.pdf
Energy Smart Communities Initiative (ESCI), “Muangklang Low Carbon City”, http://esci-ksp.org/?project=muangklang-low-carbon-city
Asia Low Emission Development Strategies Partnership, Case Studies on Low Emission Development, Thailand’s Low Carbon City Initiative, http://lowemissionsasia.org/sites/default/files/pdf_file/Asia%20LEDS%20Partnership%20Case%20Study%20-%20Thailand%20Low%20Carbon%20City%20Initiative%20-%20March%202013.pdf
Green Growth, “Klang Model: Policy and Practice for Small Low Carbon City”, www.greengrowth-elearning.org/pdf/GreenGrowth-CaseStudy-Thailand-Klang_Model_Policy_and_Practice_for_Small_Low_Carbon_City.pdf
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), “Towards Climate-Friendly Waste Management: The Potential of Integrated Municipal Solid Waste Management”, http://citiesclimateregistry.org/uploads/tx_carbonndata/Waste_Klang.pdf
Text by: Martin Jacobson