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article imageBangkok 'could be submerged within 15 years' NRC panel warns

By Karen Graham     Jul 28, 2015 in Environment
Bangkok - Thailand's capital city, Bangkok, could be submerged within 15 years, warns the nation's National Reform Council in a report issued last week. The committee says urgent action is needed immediately.
The conclusion comes from the head of Thailand's National Reform Council, Witthaya Kulsomboom. The report described how Bangkok, home to 14 million people, could be underwater in 15 years due to a combination of sinking land and rising sea levels.
The sinking land, called subsidence is increased by the number, size and weight of the buildings pressing down on the land all around the city, the report explained. "There are about 700 buildings with 20 floors or more and 4,000 buildings with 8-20 floors in Bangkok. There are also many electric railways. These could cause the submergence of parts of Bangkok and surrounding areas in the future," said Mr. Withaya.
According to the Bangkok Post, Mr. Withaya also suggested the capital would need to be relocated if development continues unabated and groundwater continues to be pumped from beneath the city.
He pointed out that Bangkok and adjacent provinces are between 0.5 and 2.0 meters (1.6 and 6.6 feet) above sea level and sinking. He added that the longstanding withdrawal of groundwater in areas without tap water supplies is accelerating the subsidence in many areas affected.
Bangkok street in October 2011.
Bangkok street in October 2011.
Bangkok's flooding history
At the beginning of the monsoon season at the end of July 2011, severe flooding spread through the provinces of northern, northeastern, and central Thailand along the Mekong and Chao Phraya river basins. By October 2011, the flood-waters had reached the capital, Bangkok at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River, inundating the city.
It was the worst flooding in over half a century, and according to the World Bank, the economic losses and damages done by the flooding in Bangkok ranked the disaster as the fourth costliest in the world, surpassed only by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, 1995 Kobe earthquake, and Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. in 2005.
Since 2011, Bangkok has experienced yearly, sometimes heavy flooding, including this year. In June, Thailand's Prime Minister brushed aside requests for him to sack Bangkok's governor over an alleged failure to prevent recent flooding. Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said it was up to “the people” to decide the fate of their elected city chief.
One of Bangkok's problems is the lack of efficient flood barriers along the Chao Phraya River and two major drainage canals, the Bangkok Noi and Mahasawat canals. The canals comprise a system of seven tunnels that can move flood waters at a rate of 155.5 cubic meters per second. There are five additional tunnels under construction.
The dire news from the National Reform Council only adds to people's panic as they await more flooding. It leaves us wondering if better flood control may be the answer, rather than doomsday warnings over the city sinking.
More about Bangkok, subsidence, sinking city, within 15 years, Groundwater
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