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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs  23 October 2010

Megacities get flood advice

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Megacities such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila could reduce the number of people affected by floods if climate-related risks are integrated into city flood protection and urban planning, the World Bank says.

The release of the report, jointly produced by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, coincides with Thailand's worst flooding in decades. The floods have affected 30 provinces and 1.34 million people and have taken 32 lives at this date.

Poonam Pilai, the bank's senior environment specialist, said the impact of climate change on big cities in coastal areas was still little known, as not much research has been done. The three agencies have collaborated for two years to come up with a set of recommendations for city planners.

Key suggestions include better management of the urban environment and infrastructure to take account of climate change, integrating climate-related risks in city and regional planning, and using city-specific solutions combining infrastructure investment, zoning, and ecosystem-based strategies.

Jan Bojo, a World Bank researcher on Bangkok, said city planners have to factor in the fast pace of urbanisation to cope with the impact of climate change. "Bangkok is sinking mostly because of the pumping of groundwater. That alone is going to impact on rising sea levels. "While there is reason to worry about climate change, the impacts of land subsidence are even bigger," said Mr. Bojo.

Damage from a once-in-30-year flood under 2008 climate conditions (the base data used in the research) would cost about 35 billion baht.

However, the same extent of flooding would cost about 99 billion baht by 2050 because of the added burden of land subsidence. Mr Bojo said an increase in temperature and precipitation in Bangkok could lead to damage equivalent to 1-2 percent of Bangkok's GDP.

He also cited another finding in the report which showed that flood-prone areas in Bangkok will expand by 30 percent under conditions that generate a once-in-30-year flood but with added precipitation projected for a high-emission scenario.

Measures to address the problem include controlling groundwater pumping, improving flood forecasting, raising dykes and investing in pump station capacity.

Threats from rising sea levels and storm surges warrant investment in coastal zone protection and land use planning, the report said.

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