KNOXVILLE - Poor planning, overdevelopment and careless land use created a
poverty culture in Thailand as it did years ago in East Tennessee, a
University of Tennessee agriculture specialist said Monday.

Two groups of Thai officials arrived here Monday to learn how to manage
natural resources and to deal with industrial emergencies.

Dr. Robert Orr, director of UT's international agriculture program, said
Thailand's destructive agriculture practices, population growth and
settlement patterns are similar to those of early Southern Appalachia.

"In Thailand, massive soil erosion and loss of soil productivity is
destroying the local agricultural economy and creating a culture of
poverty," Orr said.

"Some of the Thai problems, such as erosion from growing corn on hillsides,
are exactly like what occurred here from the late 1880s to the 1930s."

Other problems, such as pollution from the Thai shrimp industry, did not
occur here, but studying them may help researchers better address regional
pollution and waste management issues, Orr said.

"We've had natural resources management problems here and we've done pretty
well turning them around," Orr said. "However, we've got problems with
toxic wastes and other issues. In helping Thailand, we hope to learn more
about our own problems."

The seven-week natural resources course will include Tennessee Valley
Authority programs, field trips in the Great Smoky Mountains and use of
microcomputers, Orr said.

UT's Center for Industrial Services is teaching a second Thai group to
respond to industrial disasters.

"The most important part of any emergency industrial response training is
making sure the people handling the situation protect themselves," CIS
director Bill Wiley said.

The industrial emergency response course is part of a Federal Emergency
Management Association training program to develop international
partnerships in industrial safety. The natural resources management courses
are funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.