Thailand flooding, Bangkok sinking: Sign of things to come

Thailand flooding, Bangkok sinking: Sign of things to come

What exactly is causing the worst floods in Thailand? Now, Bangkok is going underwater – and this could be a sign of things to come. Consider ourselves warned.

What are some of the possible causes of the flooding?

Exceptionally heavy rain this year, possibly as a result of global warming (New Mandala). To tackle this, we badly need to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

A TIME World report in July 2011 predicted that climate change, rising sea waters and coastal erosion could result in parts of Bangkok being underwater by 2030. 2030? Who would have thought that large swathes of Bangkok would be underwater before the year’s end!

Then, there is the destruction of Nature in the mad rush to so-called “development”. One New Mandala commenter, Robin Grant, observed:

The rainfall figures are startling, but evidence of contributory factors to this year’s flooding, and last year’s, and the year before that etc, are easy to discern. Canals, no longer much used for transportation, are neglected, and choked with silt and weeds. Highways on embankments criss-cross the country, acting as barriers to the natural flow of water. Ever more housing and industrial estates are being built, especially in areas around Bangkok, much of which is in effect a flood plain. It was claimed that last year’s serious flooding in Nakhon Ratchasima was caused, in part, by the construction of a sports stadium in the site of what had been a reservoir!

In the rush towards modernisation and “development” Thais have chosen to ignore climatic realities, and they are paying the price.

So I am stumped to hear that investors in Bangkok want guarantees (see Youtube above) from the Thai government that floods will not recur – when the construction of industrial estates and rapid urbanisation could be major factors in the worsening floods. The cheek!

Another New Mandala commenter, Ricky, suggested:

Last year nature conservationists were horrified at government plans to systematically destroy Thailand’s rivers. Despite public pleas, the plans proceeded and riparian vegetation which protected farmland from erosion was destroyed and rivers dredged to speed waters on their way to quickly flood downstream, and in doing so causing erosion of banks and damage to structures. One wonders if this was part of a plan to divert more funds to construction and private benefit? We notice that even with the floods far from over plans for more dams and drains are miraculously appearing.

An AFP report pointed out that Bangkok is actually sinking. This has been blamed on excessive ground water extraction to meet the needs of factories and the growing population.

A Global Post report added that the sinking in Bangkok is also due to property development – the city’s many steel and concrete structures weighing down on soft clay. Shoreline construction has replaced coastal mangroves with cement, thus removing a natural buffer against flooding.

Consider this from the AFP report:

Rapid urbanisation is one reason why the inundations are affecting the sprawling city so badly, according to experts.

As the area that needs flood protection gets larger and more built-up, the water “has fewer places to go”, said Francois Molle, a water management expert at France’s Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement.

Do we still want to pour concrete and tar on every green space we can catch hold of? How will the water from rainfall be absorbed into the ground?

7 COMMENTS

  1. The mekong river is heavily dammed. The rain itself won,t cause the flooding so bad. It is the untimely release of water from all the dams at the upstream that caused the flooding. The other reason is bangkok actually sinking. The massive development have prevented rain water from entering the ground. Rain water from runoff that flow to the drains. Which eventually go to the sea. This water will evaporate at faster speed as can be seen from the vertical mushroom shaped clouds. That is how more frequant rain is form.

     
  2. Umno flers are now trying to show their ‘readiness’ to evacuate flood victims – an election ploy to win votes!

    They should have proactively worked on flood mitigation plan – widening the drain, clear the rubbish that choked the drain, etc at the flood-prone area. Instead they are capitalising on the opportunity to act in a very reactive manner. The case in Kuala Kedah flash flood is a good example.

    What is the kpi for JKR here?
    Should spend money on flood prevention engineering work, instead of giving cash to flood victims when flood occurs.

     
  3. More greenhouse gases –> higher air temperature –> higher air capacity for vapour –> more precipitation.

    The latest studies of the Antarctic land and sea beds are truly frightening. But the capitalist motto is, as they say in Thailand, “mai pen rai” or “don’t worry, be happy”.

     
  4. Climate change is likely a factor in this disastrous turn of events, but its important to understand the factors at play.

    Bangkok, once known as “The Venice of the East” was built on swampland – photographs of 19th Century Bangkok show houses on stilts built on top of mud and clay, usually alongside canals.

    Its been slowly sinking for a hundred years, and it floods every few years, though the latest episode is the worst for many decades.

    Filling up the old canals, draining of swampland and restricting water flow to fixed channels has accelerated the sinking because clay and mud shrink when they dry out.
    When it rains heavily, the water now has fewer channels to flow out, so it ends up flowing through roads and houses.

     

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