Water is the elemental substance with the closest and hearty relationship with mankind. 70% of the world as well as human body are made up of water. From the day we were born, until the day we die, our lives have always been intertwined with water for our own survival, our agricultural activities and cultures. We use and consume water as a part of our everyday life. Just like the words of King Bhumibol the Great, ‘water is life’, which best encapsulate the importance of water. The late King had always acknowledged the significance of the country’s preservation, reserving and management of water for the utmost benefits of the people in the society through the development of irrigation.
The Royal Irrigation Department, as a governmental agency whose role and responsibility encompassing the management of water, floods and draughts, operates to balance the relationship between water, people’s way of life and nature. It aims to bring people’s true understanding in how to ‘live with water’ through every aspect and history of the element in humans’ lives, from daily consumption to water management, and agricultural use as well as natural disasters caused by water. The intention leads to the initiation of Thailand Irrigation Park, a project situated inside the vast 95.5-acre land of Royal Irrigation Department Golf Course in Pak Kred district of Nonthaburi Province in Thailand. The area, which also serves as one the province’s drainage basins during seasonal flooding, is surrounded with communities of residential neighborhoods, schools, and temples including a subway station.
Following the master urban plan, Royal Irrigation Department is set to transform the golf course into a public space that does not only aim to help elevate the quality of life of people in the area, but also focuses on providing all the important knowledge and understanding in water. The 95.5-acre land is divided into four main sections, each offering the general public an access, not only to a series of thoughtfully and beautifully designed public spaces but a comprehensive knowledge about water, irrigation and agriculture.
Thailand Irrigation Park is a public park crated to accommodate primarily the local residents living around Tiwanon Road. The area hopes to become a new living room for the neighborhood with the development team’s intention to integrate the knowledge surrounding the relationship between water and human life through the program of the ‘Water Pavilion’. The park, whose acres of space includes recreational areas, running routes, bicycle lanes, is embraced by natural surroundings of plants selected and curated to showcase water’s close relationship to people’s way of life. Created as a part of the program are model paddy fields, which exhibit different methods of water management employed to rice farming. The harvested produces are later sold at the project-hosted farmer market, which, as one of the mechanisms of the park’s Ecosystem, exemplifies the interlaced relationship between human life and water.
As the heart of the project, Thailand Irrigation Museum operates with the main narrative that features the country’s irrigation history, King Bhumibol’s royal initiatives and the future evolution of irrigation in Thailand inside its interior exhibition space. The outdoor area is used to tell the story of irrigation and agriculture, including the tools and machines used in Royal Irrigation Department’s operations through a simple, easy to understand presentation.
The third part houses what is called the future of agriculture, presented as an experimental outdoor ground consisting of the innovative agricultural space, a platform for agriculturists, scientists, Royal Irrigation Department and interested individuals to share and develop knowledge and innovative inventions such as solar cells, drone technology and other future innovations. Also featured in this zone are developing fields of aquaponics system, which house a variety of innovative agricultural practices and experiments.
The last section located to the furthest end of the program is the kitchen of self-sufficient agricultural projects. The area better completes the cycle of the project’s learning Ecosystem that revolves around water, irrigation and agriculture. This part of the exhibition serves the project’s objective in carrying out King Bhumibol’s initiatives through the design of a sustainable and sufficient agricultural ecosystem that hopes to help improve the quality of life and ability to maintain and happy, self-sufficient way of living for the people, particularly Thai farmers. The philosophy and theory of Sufficiency Economy initiated by King Bhumibol are presented through the exhibition in this part of the program.
Every part of the project can be accessed through the three parallel main circulations: Cultural Route, Water and Irrigation Route and Agricultural Route. Such program allows visitors to experience the stories, knowledge, history and evolution of water, irrigation and agriculture with the three routes intertwined and connected with various nodes hosting different types of activities.
The design of Thailand Irrigation Park is realized with the key objective to become a pilot project that hopes to cultivate and promote an awareness, knowledge and understanding in the importance of water. It manifests the role of water from an individual scale, which involves humans’ relationship with water. On an urban scale, the body of knowledge about water encompasses the efficiency of flood control such as effective drainage basin, regulation of water flow and water drainage, particularly in the area around Tiwanon Road in Nonthaburi province, as well as the expansion of green spaces, public parks and public spaces that can accommodate recreational activities all the way to the community farmers’ market that sells locally produced high quality agricultural products.
On a national scale, Thailand Irrigation Park will serve as a model that brings together a comprehensive body of knowledge in water, irrigation and agriculture that can be accessed by every member of the society from the general public, students, agriculturists, etc. As a hub of water-related knowledge, the project is initiated and operated with the belief in the significance of water and its deep connection to many aspects of a human life.