Thai-German technical cooperation started lately in the field of environment, but still was one of the first German contributions worldwide to combat industrial pollution.

  • At first it raised awareness and initiated the change process from ‘command-and-control’ towards more preventive and participatory approaches.
  • Later it shifted to be more integrative part of the economical, industrial and urban development of Thailand, both on policy and operational level.
  • Today it is the main focus of on-going technical cooperation looking far ahead into next decades.

For decades environment-related projects had been the “step-child” of TGTC. However, accelerated economic growth of Thailand since the 1970s led to environmental problems, such as air pollution, waste, waste water, hazardous waste in the “brown”, i.e. industrial areas. Moreover, land erosion, flooding, drought, deforestation and biodiversity loss are the threats more in the natural resource or “green” sector.

Although environmental activities were part of TGTC before, a full-fledged project started only in 1987. The Thai-German Environment Advisory for Industry Project (1987-2003) was one of the first projects of GTZ worldwide that focused on combating industrial pollution. The project contributed to a significant reduction of water consumption and environmental pollution in selected industrial branches: leather tanning, palm oil production, starch and derivate industry, and the metal-working industry.

A Core Part of Sustainable Development Since the 1980s environmental issues became a global concern and were taken up into the concept of sustainable development. The concept had been introduced into the global development policy debate through the report Our Common Future (Brundtland Report) published by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987. The report defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” and therewith pushed environmental issues to the fore front of international development cooperation.

Although environmental activities were part of TGTC before, a full-fledged project started only in 1987. The Thai-German Environment Advisory for Industry Project (1987-2003) was one of the first projects of GTZ worldwide that focused on combating industrial pollution. The project contributed to a significant reduction of water consumption and environmental pollution in selected industrial branches: leather tanning, palm oil production, starch and derivate industry, and the metal-working industry.

Environmental activities became integral part of many Thai-German projects, especially in the fields of economic development, urban and industrial development. It was inevitable not to make the same mistakes of industrialized countries, i.e. go through industrialization process first and “clean up” afterwards, but to consider environmental right from the start. This full integrated approach has been achieved in the large Thai-German “Programme for Enterprise Competititveness” (2004-2011, see section “Economic Development”), where environmental aspects became a crucial economic factor.

People often asked me, what did TGTC achieved in terms of results and impact from our work. I always tell them, is when you see or notice nothing, especially in the media, that is when we can be sure, we have achieved something.

- Mr. Pongnarin Petchu, former GTZ project staff, expert in the fields of chemicals risk and dangerous goods.

Right from the begin, the projects also tried to move away from the usual top-down ‘command-and-control’ towards more preventive and bottom-up, participatory environmental management approaches. All projects worked on four main areas:

  • Support enabling policy and framework conditions and establish standards
  • Build capacities in respective agencies, service providers and pilot enterprises
  • Raise awareness of stakeholders and of the public
  • Implement showcases and pilot projects

Most important was to establish concrete environmental management models and test their feasibility in pilot areas with the aim of disseminating the results and lesson learned to a wider target. Methods deployed by TGTC in this field include technology transfer, training and coaching services, as well as participatory approaches in a multi- stakeholder setup.

Following the above the Urban Environment Management Project (1997-2000) for example worked together with 5 municipalities, local NGOs and self-help-groups in selected partner towns (Sri Racha, Kanchanaburi, Kaeng Khoi, Chumpon, Lamphun), in order to support them to be green cities. Apart from fostering cooperation among the different actors and raising awareness for environmental problems, 18 small-scale demonstration projects were implemented.

Another sample is the project on Environmental Geology for Regional Planning (1996-2005) which supported the application of environment relevant geo-information in land-use planning. It was implemented by the Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR, German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources) in cooperation with the Thai Department of Mineral Resources at three pilot sites in different regions of Thailand. Later TGTC was also involved in the planning of eco-industrial estates.

Within the field of environmentally sound urban and industrial planning and management, TGTC was very active in the fields of solid waste, hazardous goods and sustainable urban transport.

The Thai-German Dangerous Goods Project (1998-2004) for example supported the authorities to develop a disaster management system for the safe and controlled transportation of dangerous substances.

On the municipality level the Solid Waste Management Programme Phitsanulok (1999-2007) introduced an efficient and environmentally sound solid waste management system for the city of Phitsanulok, as well as disseminated their community-based management model to other towns in the country.

On a regional scale, the Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP) Asia was started in 2003. It is a partnership between GIZ, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), CITYNET and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). It aims to help developing world cities achieve their sustainable transport goals, through the dissemination of information about international experience, policy advice, training and capacity building and targeted work on sustainable transport projects within cities.

Apart from the integration of environmental aspects into economic development in Thailand, in last decade Germany has increased significantly its engagement to fight the global climate change impacts.

Since 2009, the cooperation between the two countries went also beyond the usual bilateral cooperation. Since Thailand became leader in the region also in environmental issues, Germany regards Thailand an important partner in the global environmental challenges.

Therefore, within the framework of the German International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), TGTC started in 2008/2009 many new projects and programmes in this sector.

Germany and Thailand are also trying to develop joint policies and strategies for the region. This for example also resulted in German-ASEAN regional projects in the field of “Cities, Infrastructure and Environment” which also started their operations from Bangkok.

Did you know?... That in the beginning of 2000s "Map Ta Phut" was one of several estates supported by TGTC. It was at that time a regional showcase concerning eco-industrial park planning and development...

I think the most important benets were the reduction of waste and loss during production and the consequent increase in production yield. We reduced the amount of our lost in the air because we controlled water usage better. By doing so, we reduced the amount of wastewater owing into the environment, too.

- Mr. Anuwat Ruthaiyanont, Owner of Northeastern Starch (1978) Co., Ltd., and Vice President of Thai Tapioca Starch Association

I think the most important benets were the reduction of waste and loss during production and the consequent increase in production yield. We reduced the amount of our lost in the air because we controlled water usage better. By doing so, we reduced the amount of wastewater owing into the environment, too.

- Mr. Anuwat Ruthaiyanont, Owner of Northeastern Starch (1978) Co., Ltd., and Vice President of Thai Tapioca Starch Association


A great lesson we learned from this project is public participation which has been further developed to become a curricula on Community-Based Solid Waste Management. Later the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has been transferring this course to other municipalities in the country.

- Dr. Suthee Hantrakul, Deputy Mayor of Phitsanulok Municipality.
Did you know?... The first “Green Party” in the world to achieve national-wide recognition was the German Green Party, which was founded in 1980. They are famous for their opposition against nuclear power. It was also the environmental movement in Germany in the Seventies which has triggered the very intensive involvement of TGTC in the sector.
Today... The first “Green Party” in the world to achieve national-wide recognition was the German Green Party, which was founded in 1980. They are famous for their opposition against nuclear power. It was also the environmental movement in Germany in the Seventies which has triggered the very intensive involvement of TGTC in the sector.

People who live with and conserve the forest do contribute to climate protection, where people in the city also gain those benefits. We need to study how to improve life quality of these conservers. Vice versa, economic tools must demonstrate the value of biodiversity loss from deforestation and their economic values if it could have been conserved.

- Dr. Rungnapar Pattanavibool, Ex-Director of International Cooperation Division, DNP
Do you remember?... that fine particles in Bangkok’s air exceed WHO standards by 2.5 times? that air and water pollution costs the country approximately 1.6 – 2.6 percent of its GDP each year? that one third of Thailand’s surface water is considered to be of poor quality? that forest cover fell from 53 percent in 1961 to 25 percent in 1998? that Thailand ranks lowest in Asia for annual per capita water availability? Source: World Bank