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Sink or Swim: Bangkok Might Be Underwater by 2032

The future is looking dire for Bangkok as the city continues to sink and sea levels continue to rise.

According to a recent feature by Channel News Asia, the risk of Bangkok being submerged is real and pressing. However, many Thais are simply uninformed about the issue or are in denial of its validity.

“The problem is slow and silent. Many people don’t believe Bangkok will ever be under water. Some think others will take care of it. And that’s a dangerous thought,” architect Ponlawat Buasri told the media source.

Buasri is known as the mind behind Wetropolis, a flood-resistant community that tackles Thailand’s future inundation problems head-on. The blueprint for the community came out in 2011, when the country experienced historic flooding that claimed at least 800 lives and displaced 12 million others.

After the tragedy, Bangkok was submerged for months, and the local economy took a massive, US$40.7 billion hit.

The reality is that Bangkok is sandwiched between two pressing problems: rising sea levels and an unstable ground foundation. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by the end of the 21st century, the global average sea level will have risen by almost a meter.

On the other hand, the Thai capital is sinking fast. At the moment, Bangkok is just 0.5-2 meters above sea level. But, like many metropolises in Southeast Asia, it was built on marshland, a highly compressible layer of soft clay. This, coupled with rapid urbanization and a loss of groundwater due to excessive pumping, worsens the sinking.

It’s predicted that the city could be under water in less than 15 years, according to a 2015 study by the National Reform Council.

Inforgraphic via Channel News Asia.

Since the flooding calamity, the local government has come up with some solutions in an effort to alleviate the problem, such as signing a law on groundwater pumping. According to the decree, any request to obtain groundwater must be carefully vetted by the Groundwater Resources Department.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is also seeking help from local residents to reduce flooding. At the moment, Bangkok residents are encouraged to use rainwater from tanks instead of groundwater sources. Those who comply will be granted benefits for their initiative.

[Photo by Flickr user Kim Seng]

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