Baan Bo Mai, Thailand: January 2007 and June 2006


Baan Bo Mai is a farming village located in the Kaen Noi Mountain range in the Chiang Mai Province of Northern Thailand. The village, which is 10 miles south of the Thai/Burmese border, is home to more than 200 Lahu Hill Tribe people, stateless refugees from Burma. There are approximately 30 children living in an orphanage within the village. The children are casualties of the drug wars and ethnic persecution in Burma that took the lives of their parents. Five years ago, a Burmese guerrilla fighter named Japhu, along with his son Jaffa, fled Burma and created the orphanage in Thailand. Since then, a dormitory, an activity room, and combined school house and dining hall have been built to accommodate the children. The village and orphanage currently get their drinking water from an agricultural pipeline, which is not fit for human consumption. The goal of this project is to provide the village and orphanage with both clean and reliable drinking water, as well as water for an agricultural field. The source for the water is a stream that lies 2.5 km from the village.


An orphanage and approximately 200 villagers in the village of Baan Bo Mai in northern Thailand currently lack clean, reliable drinking water. A water distribution and treatment system are needed; an irrigation supply for crops will help them move toward greater self-sufficiency.

The EWB Response

Students from the University of Maryland, College Park, in cooperation with the community of Baan Bo Mai, coordinated a project deisgned to provide the village with drinking and irrigation water. Two students, a practicing engineer, and an engineering professor went to Baan Bo Mai in January 2006 to survey existing conditions, including water quality and quantity, village support and structure, and planning a route for the pipeline. The team subsequently spent 5 months designing a two-phase project to meet the water needs of the village in a sustainable manner.


Phase I: June, 2006: The first phase of the project was completed in June 2006 by a 6-person EWB-UMCP team with the help of about 20 villagers. The major accomplishments included installing an intake system at the source stream, installing the uppermost 400 ft of pipeline through the stream bed and along the stream bank, surveying a new route for some portions of the pipeline and stream crossing locations, and meeting with the villagers to discuss their willingness to maintain a sand filter system for water purification. We learned the challenges of working at the onset of the rainy season, and planning was impacted by the deathof a local village leader. However, a motivated project team and a skillful combination of village workers propelled the project to success. Aside from the concrete accomplishments of the first phase, there were a plethora of additional benefits for both the village and EWB-UMCP project members. The villagers participated in the implementation of the project, which taught them construction and maintenance skills that will be used in the second phase of implementation. It established our credibility: we will return, and we will usher the project to completion. And it engendered a sense of ownership, responsibility, and understanding with regard to the project. The students furthered their engineering skills, learned more about the hardships yet determination of the community, and were renewed in their commitment to these people.

Phase II: January 2007: The second phase of the project was successfully completed by a 9-person EWB-UMCP team along with the villagers of Baan Bo Mai. The major accomplishments were five-fold: (1) Updating the intake system and laying a total of 200 ft of pipe laid in a stream bed; (2) Spanning three ravines with 2-inch GI pipe; (3) Laying and bolstering 1000 feet of 2-inch GI pipe above ground along a steep hillside; (4) Burying 750 feet of 3-inch PVC pipe down a steep hill and installing four erosion prevention structures; and (5) Crossing a stream with 3-inch GI pipe. In total, the team laid 2750 feet of pipe.

Laying 1,000 feet of 2-inch GI pipe along a steep and rocky hillside proved to be the most challenging stretch of work. Maneuvering manpower and materials through this section was particularly difficult, as was connecting pipes with unions and sockets. The GI pipes, each of which weighed about 100 pounds per 20-ft. section, were bent around trees to shape the pipe such that it followed the natural contour of the hillside. Installing 750 feet of piping into tough and rocky soil down a steep hill required significant villager labor for digging and backfilling the long and straight trench. Y-shaped stone-and-mortar structures were installed in-line and on top of the pipeline to prevent erosion of the trenches.

The team also installed a concrete structure in a streambed to house and protect pipe crossing the stream. Groundwater in the streambed made pouring concrete difficult, but the team and villagers persevered. A brick valve box was constructed to house a washout facility on the downstream side of the stream crossing.

The team had the opportunity to test the pipe flow prior to departure, and was pleased to record a flow of about 20 gallons per minute. Repair of a few leaky connections during the next project phase should result in increased flow. The team also collected information about the potential configuration of the distribution system for the next project phases.
Download Powerpoint on Phase II.

Phase III: Summer 2007:

More details coming soon!