Thailand Project 2011-2013


The Engineers for a Sustainable World’s Thailand Water and Energy project has spanned three years now. We worked with an NGO known as the Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP) to improve the quality of life for a village known as Kraw Tah (pronounced Kaw-Taw) in the Northern Thai province of Chiang Mai. The village itself is located in the Southern part of the Province, in the south most sub-district of Sop Kong, Omkoi district, amongst the rolling hills of the region.

In order to provide electricity, clean drinking water and an efficient irrigation system for the villagers, over 30 ESW members worked hard in their free time designing and testing systems that would accomplish these three goals.

The hydroelectricity team sought to create a compact alternative to large-scale hydroelectric systems in order to charge a battery that could be used to power a UV water purification system. The irrigation team sought to create an efficient watering system to improve crop yields for the hill-tribe. The bioenergy team researched techniques of converting decomposing waste into usable fuel via a methane collection system. Lastly, the water purification team sought to create a UV filtering system to provide clean water for the villagers.

Rob Kepner, Peggy Ip, Patrick Charles, and Richard La visited the Kraw Tah Village for the first time in the summer of 2011 to collect preliminary data and survey the areas where projects would be implemented. Erik Hauenstein, Perapong Woointranon, Alex Ty, Derek Chung, and Claire Groebner (AKA the Thailand Warriors) went to Thailand in the summer of 2013 to implement the designs that had been developed over the past 3 years by Thailand Project team members.

The bioenergy portion of the project unfortunately did not end up being a feasible technology due to the sheer amount of waste input necessary in order to create enough gas to warrant creating the reactor for the village and it was decided that the team would not pursue putting in a biogas reactor at the village for methane collection. The research and development from the biogas team will not go unused in future projects that ESW-UCSD is pursuing, like one potentially using UCSD’s waste to create biogas.

The villagers of Kraw Tah now have access to a source of clean drinking water for their children who will be attending a new school (construction scheduled to begin in early 2014 after the rainy season ends); this UVC purification system provides 15 gallons per minute of tested E. coli neutral water. A small hydroelectric system consisting of a Pelton wheel enclosed in a 14” by 14” by 14” acrylic box creates 50 Watts of electricity via an alternator on top of the box (safe from the high pressured water stream). A controller monitors the charging of a battery that runs the UV system along with two light bulbs. The UV system receives feed water from a 7 ft tall barrel with a diameter of about 5 feet. An irrigation line uses the same feed water as the UV system to water a total area of about 170 sq. meters (about 1830 sq. feet) using water-wise drip hose.

Also, the level of water inside of the blue barrel is maintained via a drainage pipe raised to the maximum desired height of water for ensuring the barrel does not overflow (not pictured in attached PDF). This excess water is drained onto the hillside where it ultimately meets stream water coming down the mountain.

By working alongside the villagers for this project and sharing our ideas, we were able to teach them while they were teaching us through their hands-on wisdom.

We truly enjoyed interacting with the villagers. We learned that “ta blu” means thank you in Karen (villagers native language) and could not stop saying it because the villagers were always so kind to us. “Ghaw luh a ghãy” is good morning, “nee luh a ghãy” is good afternoon, and “ha luh a ghãy” is good night (see this site for more Karen phrases); we enjoyed attempting to say these correctly as we passed by villagers during our daily work routine. The children were phenomenal and had smiles that supercharged us to work harder. We enjoyed teaching them English and Thai (thanks to Perapong who is Thai himself and speaks fluent Thai); it was a privilege to meet such smart kids and a lot of fun to play with them too.

This project has been one additional step towards improving the lives of the villagers of Kraw Tah. As this project comes to a close we will be exploring opportunities for creating new projects partnering once more with ITDP to continue working with Moobaan (Thai for “village”) Kraw Tah. It is ESW’s mission to “bring communities together to develop, implement, and share sustainable technologies and practices worldwide” and we will continue doing this into the future with ITDP and more partnerships to come.