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15
Oct-2013

Dam It! What Should We Do About These Floods in Thailand?

Only a few weeks ago, massive floods struck a total of 11,158 villages in Thailand and have disrupted the lives of almost three million people. A total of 23 deaths have been reported this year alone as a result.

In areas such as Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province, Ubon Ratchathani and Pattya, flood water was as high as one or two metres deep and thousands of houses, temples, schools and mosques have been affected. Nearly five thousand roads have been closed and approximately 200 bridges have been damaged, according to the Disaster Prevention and Relief Department.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Thailand has been seriously affected by flooding. In 2011, floods caused devastating damage all over the country and killed 813 people. The economic damage caused by the 2011 floors was equivalent to more than $40 billion.

This means that the floods in 2011 was the fourth most expensive natural disaster of the time, surpassed only by the 2011 Japanese tsunami, the 1995 Kobe earthquake and Hurricane Katrina! It has been described as the very worst flood in history, in terms of the amount of water all over the country and the number of people affected.

When Thailand is flooded, the disaster causes not only immediate damage but long term effects as well. There are significant costs associated with repairing communities and employment is hurt when factories are flooded and workers are fired and laid off. In fact, the floods had significant effects on the global supply chain because many factories that are owned by multinational companies were under water.

Of course, the floods also have a significant negative impact on tourism which is one of the most important industries in Thailand.

thai-flood2Why Does Thailand Flood So Often?

Many regions of Thailand are very prone to flooding, especially in this season, because they have a Tropical Savanna Climate. Tropical storms will strike the North of the country and then the excess precipitation will spread down via the Chao Phraya River through the central plains.

Unfortunately, the dams, canals and other infrastructure designed to stop flooding is woefully inadequate – especially when it comes to protecting rural areas. You might notice as you travel around Thailand that there are many rural houses in the upcountry that are built on stilts, which were designed to protect against flooding – perhaps we need more of these in the future?

Looking on the Bright Side

Even in tragedy, there are still those who will find the silver lining in their situation. Many kids love the floods because their towns and villages turn into the largest swimming pool ever. It is also a chance to relive the romance of the old days, when Bangkok was known as the Venice of the East and many of the roads were once canals and waterways.

So What Will Happen in the Future?

When the monsoon rains start again, people will begin to wonder “will the cycle of flooding repeat itself every year?”

The government was strongly criticised for its much disorganised response to the floods in 2011. Since then there have been a number of initiatives designed to prevent flooding, such as new canals being dredged and floodwalls being constructed. The government is putting up long-term water management projects that are worth more than $9 billion up for tender to multinational and Thai companies.

However, if every community simply builds a floodwall – the water will still need to go somewhere and it will simply flow further downstream toward places such as Bangkok. Could the flood response do more harm than good?

What are your thoughts on the flooding situation in Bangkok? What is the best strategy for the future? Let us know what you think in the comments. 

photo credit: @iannnnn via photopin cc

photo credit: plynoi via photopin cc

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