ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs 7 November 2011
As Bangkok fights the onslaught of floodwater coming into the city, the future of Bangkok and Jakarta, for that matter, comes into focus.
Both cities face the same two issues, dropping land elevation, also called subsidence, and rising ocean levels.
In the late 1970s, land was sinking at the rate of 10 centimeters a year due to the extraction of groundwater. That figure has now been reduced to less than 1 centimeter a year due to restrictions on the use of groundwater. Another factor is the continued building on the land.
Bangkok’s subsoil is primarily soft clay not bedrock and the continued weight of building on that soft mass compresses the soil. Rapid urbanization is a key factor in all of this. Experts believe that unless corrective actions are taken, the city will be below sea level in 50 years or less. As building continues in Thailand’s capital, water has fewer places to go.
The World Bank thus predicts the risk of Bangkok flooding will increase by four times between now and 2050. A key question is land usage and urban planning.
Across the Asia-Pacific region the Asian Development Bank has estimated it will cost a minimum of $10 billion a year to adapt to climate change.
In Jakarta there is already talk of relocating that megalopolis and probably Bangkok is in the same position, especially after this flood. Thailand is about the size of France and there are numerous places where the city could be relocated that would leave it high and fry all year.
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