This profile was prepared when Hannarong Yaowalers was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Hannarong’s approach of participatory wetland protection offers a win-win situation for communities and government officials who have been in long-standing conflict about the appropriate solution to water management. Hannarong has established the first citizen-based efforts to restore, conserve, and ensure sustainable use of wetlands in Thailand, as an alternative to large-scale dams and reservoirs. He is re-educating the Thai public about wetlands, generally disregarded as useless muddy areas. By working with fishermen and farmers to introduce the wetland as an economic unit, Hannarong highlights the economic viability of conservation and sustainable use. Hannarong co-founded Thailand’s first Academic Working Group on Wetlands, and serves as the only citizen sector representative alongside national government officials. Hannarong’s efforts have led to new partnerships between government agencies, academics, and citizen groups, including Thailand’s first wetlands inventories, which record not only the environmental value but also the economic contribution of wetlands to local communities. Hannarong has been instrumental in setting up the first national protocols on construction in wetland areas. In the midst of plans for dam construction in Thailand and neighboring countries, Hannarong is building the knowledge framework and new incentives for participatory water management.