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Asean Affairs    7  November  2011

Bangkok ‘s challenge to remain afloat

  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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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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