Bangkok Becomes First Megacity to Mull Move to Higher Ground

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After another year marked by months of epic flooding in the capital city of 12 million, this month AFP reports that lawmakers in Thailand have submitted a parliamentary motion to begin discussions of building a second capital or moving Bangkok to higher ground.

Sataporn Maneerat, a Puea Thai party MP, told AFP Thailand should think about moving the capital or looking to another city for future developments and investments.

“Another 19 Puea Thai MPs and I have signed and submitted a motion to parliament to seek approval to set up a committee, to consider whether the capital should be moved or if Thailand should have a second capital,” he said.

“Bangkok is sinking every year. The capital will face more and more problems from natural disasters and the environment,” he said, adding that the current capital was “over its peak”. Maneerat told AFP that the options for relocating the kingdom’s capital would be in the eastern and northeastern provinces.

According to a World Bank estimate in 2009:

Adapting to Climate Change to Cost US$75-100 Billion a year
New global estimate for cost of adaptation to climate change in developing countries

Bangkok/Washington, September 30 2009 – The costs of adaptation to climate change in developing countries will be in the order of US$75-100 billion per year for the period 2010 to 2050 according to preliminary findings in a new global study from The World Bank.

Like New Orleans, Bangkok is a low-lying coastal city built on swampy ground. Unlike New Orleans, Bangkok is a megacity with a population of 12 million, with an annual average GDP growth rate around 7%: that has doubled its housing stock in the last decade, according to the World Bank.

The rapidly developing capital is gradually overwhelming the marshy ground, unable to support the weight of the burgeoning megacity above, and is sinking. Epic floods this year approached Bangkok in July and have now had the capital largely underwater for months.

Climate scientists have warned that the recent increase in flooding events are merely a foretaste of a grim future, as climate change makes its impact felt in heavier monsoon rains in Thailand.

In April a record breaking four feet of rain hit Thailand in a week. Since then heavier than normal monsoon rains have overwhelmed the country. By October, rice production was totaled by the nation’s worst flooding in five decades after months of heavy monsoon rains. More than 1,000 industrial suppliers had been shut down. Now, 562 people have been killed across the country and the disaster is rated as the worst in a half century.

Climate change has definitely contributed to the recent unprecedented flooding taking place in Thailand, Thai Deputy Chief Negotiator for UNFCCC Dr. Sangchan Limjirakan said earlier this year. A report from the World Bank on the impact of climate change to coastal megacities said:

“in Bangkok in 2050, the number of persons affected (flooded for more than 30 days) by a 1-in-30-year event will rise sharply for both the low and high emission scenarios—by 47 percent and 75 percent respectively— compared to those affected by floods in a situation without climate change”.

More bluntly, if no action is taken to protect the city, “in 50 years… most of Bangkok will be below sea level,” Anond Snidvongs, a climate change expert at the capital’s Chulalongkorn University, told AFP earlier this month.

The world’s first ever proposal to consider moving a national capital city comes up for a vote next month by Thai lawmakers.

Image: Official U.S. Navy Imagery

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