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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 265-279

The Politics of Environmental Technology Choice for Rural Electrification in Northern Thailand

School of Social Science and Policy, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Donna Green
PMB#1, Aspendale Vic 3195
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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The emphasis on using 'environmental' technologies for rural development is a defining feature of sustainable development. The perceived benefits attributed to such technologies relate to their capacity to mitigate en­vironmental problems alongside the promotion of social and economic deve­lopment. However, the success of these technologies in bringing about socially equitable and environmentally efficient outcomes remains unscruti­nised. This report addresses this gap in the literature by examining the state­led introduction of an environmental technology for rural electrification in northern Thailand. This study argues that contrary to the programme objec­tives that allude to a sustainable development rationale, the introduction of the solar electric systems led neither to beneficial environmental outcomes nor to a socially sustainable technology transfer. Moreover, it is evident that these programmes were not designed to consider, much less meet, the most basic energy needs of the communities that they purported to serve. To ex­plore why this situation might have arisen, the motivations of previous rural electrification programmes are considered: an analysis of which reveals a highly politicised, ethnically divisive state-serving agenda. Given the inability of the chosen technology to fulfil its objectives, it is concluded that this pro­gramme might have been directed by similar state-serving agendas-with the addition of the appearance of promoting environmentally sustainable deve­lopment.

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