Figure 1 - Bangkok City Skyline
Bangkok, the "Venice of the East," is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. But it is also one of the most vulnerable cities to climate change and is sinking. According to the World Bank Research, the city is currently sinking up to 0.2m every year, and if we do not act on it, 40% of the city’s land area will be submerged by 2030 due to extreme rainfall. The city is barely above the mean sea level. Rain has fallen unpredictably in recent years, creating floods, devastating farms, wrecking livelihoods, and risking millions of people.
The city is at risk of flooding due to its geographic location and unchecked rapid urbanization. If current trends continue, over 96% (or nearly all) could be submerged by 2030 because of climate change-related sea-level rise and land subsidence caused by extreme groundwater pumping in this soft marine clay called "Bangkok Clay."
The city's vulnerabilities have worsened with unchecked and haphazard urban development. The waterways used to be a conduit for rainwater, but illegal construction in them, along with green covers that increases runoff from roofs, has caused significant problems such as flooding during heavy storms or lack of enough storage space needed due to increased demand on resources like plumbing systems which was made more challenging by this issue too resulting into higher temperatures than expected. The Urban Heat Island Effect poses another major problem due to its increased built-up area, meaning there’s less surface space per mile compared to those rural areas around us today, making streets insecure during extreme weather events. Bangkok needs to act now to mitigate the effects of climate change and protect its people from its devastating effects.
Fighting Climate Change with Innovative Projects
Climate change is a global problem, and Bangkok is on the front lines. The city is struggling to keep up with the impacts of climate change, and its people are at risk. If current trends continue, the city will be flooded by 2030.
To adapt to the effects of climate change, the city has been working on several projects. One example is the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's plan to accomplish its climate action plan by raising levels of riverbanks, improving drainage canals, increasing water storage facilities, and creating sustainable urban drainage systems.
The Bangkok Master Plan 2013-2023 outlines how the government will mitigate climate change through sustainable transportation, use of alternative energy, efficient solid waste management, wastewater treatment system, and adaptation planning. The Bangkok 250 project is part of the Green Bangkok 2030 initiative and targets to increase the ratio of green space to 10 sqm per person in the city, tree cover by 30% of the city’s total land area, and ensure footpaths meet international standards.
Another initiative is an innovative water storage park known as Chulalongkorn University, which aims to protect vulnerable people from the effects of climate change. The project is developed by Thai landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom and has received global attention. The various floodwater management systems have been integrated into the park-like green roofs, wetlands, a lawn with a detention basin, and a retention pond that can store 3.8 million liters to protect the city from floods and droughts.
The city of Bangkok is at risk of flooding due to its geographic location and unchecked rapid urbanization. The built environment has an enormous impact on the climate. If we want to mitigate the effects of climate change, we need to start with our buildings and urban infrastructure. We need to make them more resilient to the impact of climate change, and we need to ensure that they are not contributing to the problem.
This article is a part of research for the awareness and education initiative - #BuildResponsibly by Hloov Tenet. The program drives the awareness around the need for a resilient built environment lifecycle of design, build, and use to address the climate change crisis and save the planet and lives.
Hloov Tenet is the philanthropic group of Hloov that aims to raise awareness and support the pressing need for sustainable practices in the built environment to build a sustainable future for everyone. The Tenet offers collaboration opportunities on relevant topics and initiatives through education and innovation with global individuals, organizations, and institutions. It’s a global collaboration platform to engage, educate, and encourage – everyone!
For more information about the program and to get involved, please visit: www.hloov.org/br