Owing to the rapid expansion of urban areas in Thailand, TEI has been working on urban environmental development since its establishment under the concept of “Livable Cities.” TEI aims to enhance community capacity take part in urban environmental development and to support the local governments to development environmental development plans in collaboration with city stakeholders . These efforts align with Thailand’s own decentralization process that is underway and with Local Agenda 21 from the United Nations Summit Forum on Development and Environment.
From 1995 to 2003 TEI took the role in developing a national master plan, a strategy for urban environmental development, and new policy for the public sector and the sector of policy level. TEI also worked at the local level, collaborating on urban environmental development in many communities, such as Phuket, Samut Prakan, and Nakhon Sri Thamarat.
In 2003 and 2004, TEI played a role in developing indicators for livable cities which were used in an empirical study looking at how development impacted livability in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. TEI, cooperating with Department of Environmental Quality Promotion and Municipal League of Thailand, identified 5 core elements of livable cities:
- The ability for the municipality to learn and adapt;
- Efficient management and administration in government;
- The city’s physical development, including green and outdoor spaces;
- The economic development of the city and its ability to provide secure employment; and
- Sustainable urban and environmental management.
In addition, TEI also developed indicators in order to evaluate the performance according to each element of each municipality participating in the project. In 2004, there were twenty-four cities in Thailand that had met the criteria to be considered livable cities. By 2009, that number had grown to fifty-three. Some of the municipalities showed remarkable progress and were highlighted as a source of national and international knowledge for urban environmental management.
Efforts to improve cooperation nd collaboration at the local level have also helped cities build capacity to address other key issues impacting their population, including land use, conservation of urban bio-diversity, and the development and improvement of physical infrastructure.