Bangkok (again) at risk of flooding
by Steve Suwannarat

The Thai capital is on high alert due to two tropical storms coming in from Vietnam. The opening of locks on several dams is likely to aggravate the situation. Inhabitants are reminded of the 2011 flood in which a thousand people died.


Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Bangkok is again at risk of flooding this weekend. Due to two new tropical storms arriving from Vietnam in the coming days, Thailand's capital will continue to be at significant risk.

Parts of the city could be submerged by the flooding, which this monsoon season is already affecting the most exposed areas of the northeastern regions, those marked by the courses of the Chi (the country's longest) and Mun (a tributary of the Mekong) rivers, and almost all the central areas where the waters of the Chao Phraya basin, the largest in terms of flow, flow through Bangkok before discharging its waters into the Gulf of Thailand.

The extensive management of water resources for agriculture has made Thailand one of the largest producers and exporters of rice, but the opening of the locks on some of the main dams, forced to release millions of cubic metres of water to avoid damage to structures, could make the situation even worse.

The problem affects many provinces, with entire districts at risk of being flooded, and even the inhabitants of these areas.

In 2011, Bangkok was hit by a disastrous flood, which inundated 66 of Thailand's 74 provinces, causing a thousand deaths and destroying 20,000 square kilometres of cultivated land. It was a heavy blow for the capital, home to 13 million inhabitants, which still remembers those days as a nightmare. And now its fragility is being felt once again.

The Thai capital has long been under observation because of its location. Built in a marshy area that was once close to the sea, from which it is now about twenty kilometres away, it is suffering from accentuated subsidence phenomena. It suffers from the combined action of increasingly concentrated and unpredictable rainfall and above-average tides that slow down the flow of water into the sea.

Experts also point the finger at a lack of care for containment and flow structures in a city once rich in navigable canals. Critics of recent governments, for their part, denounce the concentration of resources on defending the commercial and financial heart of the country, home to its elites, while abandoning rural areas and their people to the fury of the waters.