Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Could Thailand withstand another flood?

Asia Sentinel: A year ago, central Thailand was inundated with what may have been the worst floods in the country’s history, covering the Ayutthaya plain with up to three meters of water and drowning a major segment of the multinational car and electronics industries that had settled there.

The question today is whether it could happen again. Although the Thai government has developed a reconstruction plan focused on immediate relief and recovery and as well as projected long-term solutions including raising dykes, extensive reforestation and other solutions, there are reasons to be concerned whether the government is moving fast enough.

Certainly, as climate change has grown more severe, severe weather incidents have been picking up all over the region. Although there have been no signs so far that Thailand might take another hit like the country got from last year’s Tropical Storm Nock Ten, which inundated 20 Thai provinces, at least 85,000 people in Myanmar next door to Thailand were forced out of their homes this month by what has been described as the worst flooding since 2004.

Other cities have been hit hard as well. Manila has been flooded repeatedly. Beijing was hit by the heaviest rainfall in 60 years in late July, leaving 37 people dead and thousands stranded at the city’s main airport. Roofs collapsed and downed power lines electrocuted an unknown number of people Taiwan has been battered by Tropical Storm Tambin, which dropped 500 mm of rain on the southern part of the island and appears about to return it again. Tropical Storm Bolaven has turned into a super typhoon, with sustained winds of 185 km per hour and is headed straight up the Yellow Sea towards North Korea. Citizens of Jiangsu in China have been warned to prepare for severe weather.

“While the 2011 (Thai) flood disaster was exceptional in scale and impact, climate change projections suggest that natural disasters of this kind are likely to occur more frequently and more severely in Thailand in the years ahead,” the Asia Foundation warned in a recent report. “It is important to recognize that this unique moment needs to extend beyond the communities that were most seriously affected by the 2011 flooding and that Thailand needs to develop good practices, lessons learned, and knowledge-sharing to shape and influence broader and longer-term environmental governance in Thailand.”...

Floodwaters inundated Rojana Industrial Park in Ayutthaya Province, Thailand, in the 2011 inundation. US Marine Corps photo

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