Wed, Sep 05, 2018 - Page 14 News List

With rising sea levels, Bangkok struggles to stay afloat
海平面上升 曼谷岌岌可危

A woman is ferried on a boat in the flooded section of Bangkok on Nov. 9, 2011. As Bangkok hosted climate change talks yesterday, the sprawling city of more than 10 million is itself under siege from the environment, with dire forecasts that it could be partially submerged in just over a decade.

Photo: AFP

As Bangkok hosted climate-change talks yesterday, the sprawling city of more than 10 million is itself under siege from the environment, with dire forecasts warning it could be partially submerged in just over a decade.

A preparatory meeting begins Tuesday in Thailand’s capital for the next UN climate conference, a crunch summit in Poland at the end of 2018 to set rules on reducing greenhouse emissions and providing aid to vulnerable countries.

As temperatures rise, abnormal weather patterns — like more powerful cyclones [including typhoons and hurricanes], erratic rainfall, and intense droughts and floods — are predicted to worsen over time, adding pressure on governments tasked with bringing the 2015 Paris climate treaty to life.

Bangkok, built on once-marshy land about 1.5m above sea level, is projected to be one of the world’s hardest hit urban areas, alongside fellow Southeast Asian behemoths Jakarta and Manila.

“Nearly 40 percent” of Bangkok will be inundated by as early as 2030 due to extreme rainfall and changes in weather patterns, according to a World Bank report.

Seas in the nearby Gulf of Thailand are rising by four millimeters a year, above the global average.

In 2011, when the monsoon season brought the worst floods in decades, a fifth of the city was under water. The business district was spared thanks to hastily constructed dikes.

But the rest of Thailand was not so fortunate and the death toll passed 500 by the end of the season.

Experts say unchecked urbanization and eroding shorelines will leave Bangkok and its residents in a critical situation.

With the weight of skyscrapers contributing to the city’s gradual descent into water, Bangkok has become a victim of its own frenetic development.


1. submerge v.

淹沒(yan1 mo4)

2. monsoon n.


(ji4 feng1; yu3 ji4)

3. pumping station phr.


(chou1 shui3 zhan4)

4. evacuate v.

排空(pai2 kong1)

5. land management phr.


(tu3 di4 guan2 li3)

Shrimp farms and other aquacultural development — sometimes replacing mangrove forests that protected against storm surges — have also caused significant erosion to the coastline nearest the capital.

This means that Bangkok could be penned in by flooding from the sea in the south and monsoon floods from the north, said Suppakorn Chinvanno, a climate expert at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

Narong Raungsri, director of Bangkok’s Department of Drainage and Sewage, admitted that the city’s “weaknesses” stem from its small tunnels and the hyper-development of neighborhoods.

Today, the government is scrambling to mitigate the effects of climate change, constructing a municipal canal network of up to 2,600km with pumping stations and eight underground tunnels to evacuate water if disaster strikes.

But these ad-hoc fixes may not be enough. “We need a clear policy of land management,” said Greenpeace’s Tara Buakamsri, adding that the need for increased green spaces is outweighed by developers’ interests.

“The high price of land in Bangkok makes economic interests a priority.”










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