New approach to assessing risk of cadmium contamination of rice based systems

IWMI’s assessment of the risk of cadmium contamination in rice based systems led to improved protection of public health and long-term livelihoods of cadmium exposed communities in northwestern Thailand. This was achieved through a combination of activities and outputs including development and implementation of a cadmium hazard mapping methodology; technical assistance and capacity building; briefing note to the Senate Environment Committee of the Royal Thai Government (RTG); interviews/media coverage; and project reports presented to Thai partner organizations.

The outputs are linked to 2004-2006 MTP Project 5, methodologies to assess human health impacts of agricultural use of polluted water sources. The outputs were adopted by the RTG through the Land Development Department (LDD), Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MAC) and the Bureau of Occupational and Environmental Disease, Ministry of Public Health. Those influenced by the research outputs included Thai policy makers and researchers. Those primarily affected were communities in Mae Sot, now no longer dietarily exposed to Cd contaminated rice.

The research output formed the basis of the RTG’s response to the cadmium contamination issue in Mae Sot. It was used to delineate the area contaminated and identify additional areas of concern. Technical assistance provided the LDD with tools for rapid Cd risk assessment. Besides references to IWMI reports in internal Thai government documents and memoranda, evidence of the outcome exists in media coverage (over 20 articles) during 2004/2005, which consistently referred to the IWMI research outputs (Bangkok Post, The Nation, International Environment Reporter). In addition, in 2005 rice cultivation was prohibited in 1600 ha of paddy in three sub-districts of Mae Sot and 1 million US$ provided in compensation to affected farmers. Based on IWMIs recommendations, the MAC has established a series of field trials investigating various non-edible agronomic alternatives.