Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bangkok ignored warnings

Marwaan Macan-Markar in IPS: This sinking mega-city’s eight million people are paying the price of ignoring warnings over many years concerning its climate vulnerability and the incapacity of its soggy foundations to handle flooding.

For over a week now large swathes of the Thai capital, built on a flat marshy delta with some sections below sea level, have been submerged by floodwaters. Streets have turned into rivers, with boats and bamboo rafts ferrying desperate families.

...Warnings by the kingdom’s central government and local authorities that the worst is not over are greeted with anger and frustration. It is common knowledge that this tsunami in slow motion must flow through the city before it can drain out into the Gulf of Thailand.

After all, flood management experts have warned that the city – complacent in its economic prosperity visible in the constantly changing skyline – is one of the Southeast Asian capitals most vulnerable to climate change.

"Bangkok is particularly vulnerable when compared with other cities like Manila, Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur," says Aslam Perwaiz, head of disaster risk management at the Bangkok-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre. "The current floods confirm concerns about the need to improve the city’s water management." "The record of bad floods in the past show that Bangkok’s water channels are unable to drain inundated streets and neighbourhoods for weeks," Perwaiz told IPS. "Floods have lasted for nine weeks in this city."...

Volunteers and members of the Royal Thai Army, military police, fill and place sandbags to redirect flooding in the northern Sai Mai district through the Khlong Hok Wa canal during a ground flood assessment by the III Marine Expeditionary Force humanitarian assistance survey team north of Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 25, 2011. Photo by US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Robert J. Maurer

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