Fellow Since 1993
Southern Thailand Environmental Plan (STEP)
This profile was prepared when Manop Pratoomthong was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1993.
The New Idea
When Manop Pratoomthong worked in an urban slum project for eight years most of the people he met had moved to the city only because the lake that had supported their families for generations had deteriorated and lost significant amounts of its marine life. This depletion was the result of over fishing, pollution from urban and industrial sources and soil erosion. As a consequence, the lake became increasingly shallow and inhospitable to life.It occurred to Manop that those who live around the lake who are most threatened by its deterioration, should have a voice in deciding how this resource is to be allocated among them and also have some responsibility for its management. To facilitate such a transformation, he founded the Southern Thailand Environmental Plan (STEP) as a people's action group. Its main activities have been to mobilize individual villages to create sanctuaries of 360 acres each in their sections of lake, protect the marine life there and return to traditional fishing practices in the remainder of the lake to help replenish the fish. The group also encourages governmental agencies in the three provinces which share lake frontage to stop polluting the lake and recognize its value as a natural resource for city dwellers as well. STEP has become an effective advocate in the three lake provinces for rationalizing and even unifiying the pubic administration of the lake, including such activities such as industrial clean-up, lake dredging, and fish hatcheries to help return the lake, and others like it, to a healthy state. Manop is methodically learning from the Songkhla Lake experience to build a model for national and South East Asia regional level citizen mobilization for ecosystem protection and sustainable development.