Promoting research capacity in Thailand and the UK through research into sustainable energy and agricultural practices in the face of changing climate.


Agriculture is the key socioeconomic driver in Thailand. The country relies on fertile land, strong sunlight, and plenty of water to produce foods and export to other countries. The Thai Government also aims to build stronger energy security by increasing the production of bioethanol as an additive to fossil fuel. This policy will increase sugarcane plantation areas significantly. It is undeniable that the agricultural sector is severely affected by climate uncertainty and climate change will put about 9 million farmers in Thailand in danger.

In 2020, the Ministry of Industry, Thailand issued a Notification on "Criteria, methods and conditions for approving the use of industrial wastewater for temporary use in agricultural areas during drought year 2020." The use of dilute, treated industrial wastewater is intended to mitigate against climate change-driven drought stress in agricultural sectors. Farmers in Bangladesh have negative perceptions of the use of untreated wastewater from sugar mills for irrigation including health impacts and local environmental problems. In Thailand, pre-treatment of industrial wastewater may mitigate against these concerns.

Specifically, managing safe use of treated wastewater for irrigation during drought periods will enable farmers (generally lower income populations) to have greater food and economic security. By expanding the safe use of treated wastewater we can enhance the use of anaerobic technologies, allowing greater, more sustainable approaches to available and affordable water and energy through greater utilization of small and mid-scale AD technologies. The policy has not received substantial negative responses from farmers, but long-term impacts are still uncertain.

We will establish a working group between Mahidol/York Universities to quantify and assess environmental impacts. A web-based conference will introduce stakeholders and researchers with knowledge exchange (KE) visits following. After KE, sugarcane plantations will be irrigated with regional sugar/molasses mill wastewater. We will include paired control fields using standard irrigation practices. Crop, field, and downstream impacts will be measured to determine short- and long-term impacts of this practice on consumers, farmers and regional ecosystems. Ongoing web-based interactions will allow the collaboration to continue to train and develop, especially targeting early career researchers. A final KE visit from Thailand to the UK will allow manuscript completion and future research proposal development.

Key aims and objectives

To build research capacity and strengthen ties between Thai institutions (Mahidol) and the UK (York) we intend to:

  1. Strengthen human capability on integrative monitoring and assessing environmental health by developing extra-curriculum activities for higher education students, early career researchers and professors from multidisciplinary fields (Engineering, Science, Social Science, and external Industrial Partners).
  2. Provide scientific evidence which supports understanding agroecosystem and human health consequences of drought mitigation policy, using treated wastewater for irrigation. (in the form of policy brief, research article, or other publication formats)
  3. Provide recommendations for industrial sectors and farmers that create affordable, sustainable management practices and technologies to tackle agricultural drought. (in the form of policy brief, research article, or other publication formats)

Dr Kelly Redeker, Department of Biology

Dr Richard Friend, Department of Environment and Geography

Dr Brett Sallach, Department of Environment and Geography

Professor James Chong, Department of Biology

Principal Investigator

Dr Kelly Redeker, Department of Biology

British Council

Dr Arika Bridhikitti, Mahidol University

Dr Kaewsuk, Mahidol University