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Water Quality Testing Training for Schools

Saharat Rangsarit School , Sri Songkhram District, Nakhon Phanom
26 May 2005




This one day training course was held as the first activity in a Pilot Water Quality Testing Project for Schools in the Lower Songkhram River Basin, a new initiative to establish the present state of the Nam Songkhram river’s water quality through community participation. Ten schools (eight secondary and two primary), all situated nearby the mainstream river at various points from Kham Takla District, Sakhon Nakhon Province downstream to the Mekong confluence at Tha Utaen District, Nakhon Phanom Province, were selected in early 2005 to participate in this pilot project.

The project aims to raise awareness of basic water management issues, human – nature links and the importance of water quality to aquatic life, plus integrating local environmental studies into the school’s curriculum in line with national educational policy. The water quality data generated by the project, because of its extensive temporal and spatial coverage should be useful baseline data for any future water quality studies on the lower Nam Songkhram river, something hitherto lacking.

The training forms part of the education and awareness raising component of the Mekong Wetlands Biodiversity Programme, working in joint collaboration with the Walai Rukavej Botanical Research Institute (WRBRI), based at Mahasarakham University. The WRBRI has considerable experience of training school children, university students and youth in various environmental education activities, in addition to monitoring water quality in several Northeast Thai river basins for many years and conducting biodiversity research. It is able to supply practical, low-cost water quality testing kits that are suitable for use in schools and demonstrate their use.

The workshop was attended by 70 persons (two teachers and five students per school), who will be expected to return to their respective schools and transfer their gained knowledge to classmates, before starting regular water quality testing in the river. The participants were taught through a mixture of classroom-based theory followed by a practical hands-on demonstration in the field, where everyone had a chance to get involved in testing the following water quality parameters: temperature; pH; turbidity; dissolved oxygen (DO); and biological oxygen demand (BOD). Although quite technical in parts, especially for younger children, the training course was neatly broken up by fun activities such as songs and games, and the children showed a promising level of aptitude and interest in the course objectives.

The next stage is for the schools to scope out their local stretch of river and decide on a suitable place to conduct weekly water quality tests over the next nine months. There will be follow-up and monitoring visits by WRBRI, who will also provide further training to the schools in October 2005, to ensure smooth and sustained implementation of the testing programme. A final results dissemination and evaluation workshop is planned for March 2006. The eventual goal is to use this initial activity as a launch pad to form a “knowledge network” of engaged schools in the Lower Songkhram River Basin, for introducing further wetland/environmental educational activities and allow exchange of information leading to a better understanding about the river basin, its natural resources and local livelihoods.