Sunday, November 25, 2007

Massive flood wall for Bangkok?

APINYA WIPATAYOTIN

Alarmed by the prospect of global warming triggering a rise in sea levels, disaster prevention experts and a local political group called for the construction of a 100-billion-baht flood prevention wall to save the capital from being inundated.

The call was made at a seminar on climate change and its impact on Bangkok held yesterday by the Bangkok 50 group, a political clan run by members of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party (TRT).

Chalitrat Chandrubeksa, the group's acting leader, said it would launch a signature campaign to get 50,000 names to push for the project. It would also try to convince the next government to give the go-ahead to the project.

Mr Chalitrat, a former TRT member, said the next government should not delay the decision as it would take up to eight years to build the city flood wall.

The proposed wall, he said, would cost about 100 billion baht, but it would be worth it to save the city.

He cited climate change experts' forecasts that the sea level will rise from 1.5 metres to two metres in the next decade, which would pose a serious threat to the city.

Smith Dharmasaroja, chairman of the National Disaster Warning Centre, supported the idea.

He said Bangkok was at risk of being submerged by sea water because of rising sea levels and the problem of land subsidence.

Mr Smith cited a study by the Military Mapping Office which found the city's land subsides about 5-8 centimetres every year.

The land subsidence situation was getting worse, he said, adding that in one area the land had subsided almost one metre.

He urged the next government to find proper measures to save the city from inundation, including the flood wall project.

Seree Supratid, the director of Rangsit University's natural disaster research centre, said the proposed flood prevention wall should stand at three metres higher than the moderate sea level. According to an initial design, the structure will be 80 kilometres long, starting from the mouth of the Ta Chin river to the Bang Pakong river.

It will cover three provinces _ Samut Sakhon, Chachoengsao and Bangkok _ he said.

The wall should be erected 300 metres offshore so there will be space for mangrove forest, which is a powerful natural barrier to prevent soil erosion.

The academic noted that similar flood walls had already been built in flood-prone Netherlands and Singapore.

The project could not only save the city from rising sea levels, but also slow down coastal erosion, said Mr Seree.

Bangkok slowly sinking has become a major concern for city residents after various forecasts by international academics and climate change experts about rising sea levels associated with climate change and the growing threat of global warming.

Some reports say Bangkok will be permanently and completely under water, while others argue that the situation will not be as bad, although the city's floods will be longer and cover larger areas than before.

However, according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, cities located along the Chao Phraya river including Bangkok will be ''slightly damaged'' from rising sea levels.

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