Search

 

Cablegate: How Fast Is Bangkok Sinking?

VZCZCXRO1701
RR RUEHAST RUEHCHI RUEHDH RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHNH RUEHPB
RUEHPOD RUEHSL RUEHTRO
DE RUEHBK #0454/01 0550909
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 240909Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0031
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 1076
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 7694

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 000454

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR OES, SECC
COMMERCE FOR NOAA
USDA FOR FAS
STATE PASS TO USAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KGHG KGCC SENV EAGR ECON ETRD TH
SUBJECT: HOW FAST IS BANGKOK SINKING?

BANGKOK 00000454 001.2 OF 003


1. SUMMARY AND COMMENT: With a decades-long history of land
subsidence similar to that of New Orleans, rising sea levels now
threaten the 12 million people of Bangkok with inundation by 2050.
ESTHoff and Embassy Science Fellow met with various academic and
government actors over several weeks to discuss climate change
adaptation and mitigation strategies for Bangkok. Inundation
scenarios threaten the rice paddies of the Bangkok plain that
contribute to Thailand's status as the number one global rice
exporter. Other Asian mega-cities such as Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh
City face similar inundation scenarios. One of the dramatic
measures under consideration to protect Bangkok is the building of a
dike between coastal resorts Hua Hin and Pattaya, with severe
consequences for the tourism, fishing, shipping and other
industries. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is keen
to have USG scientific and engineering collaboration, to formulate
realistic assessments of what needs to be done. The eventual
expansion of the USGS DRAGON program, as part of the Lower Mekong
Initiative, to Bangkok and its Chao Praya River Delta would pay
dividends. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.

BANGKOK SUBSIDENCE HISTORY
--------------------------
2. Bangkok lies in the Chao Praya River flood plain. After the
recent release of several assessment reports, there has been renewed
concern over severe flooding in Bangkok and surrounding rice farms
from a combination of sea level rise and human-induced land
subsidence. The Bangkok metropolitan area covers 7,761.50 square
km, with an approximate population of 11,971,000 and has been
pinpointed as a hotspot for a flooding disaster scenario by 2050 (as
well as other large Delta mega cities in Southeast Asia like Ho Chi
Minh City and Jakarta).

3. A long history of subsidence in Central Bangkok and surrounding
suburbs has resulted in gradual sinking between 2cm and 5cm a year.
Subsidence from deep well pumping has been acknowledged at least
since the early 1980s. Much of the problem was caused by extraction
of industrial water from underground aquifers faster than it could
be replaced, causing the sandy soil of the aquifer to compress. The
subsidence reached its most critical state in the early 1980s when
it occurred at a rate as high as 120 mm/year.

4. Despite various attempts to regulate groundwater use, the
subsidence-affected area has expanded in the last 20 years.
Bangkok's city limits and water needs grew with increasing
population and development. Groundwater pumping (to meet these
needs) from the thick aquifer system underneath the city has
continued to increase from about 1.2 million cubic meters/day in the
early 1980s to more than 2.0 million m3/day in 2000. Water levels
in the main aquifer layers have been drawn down by as much as 65m.
Data from the Asian Institute of Technology suggested that for one
cubic meter of groundwater pumped out in the greater Bangkok Plain,
approximately 0.10 m3 of ground loss occurred at the surface. This
would translate to about two feet of ground subsidence in the most
affected areas.

5. With the added problems of rising sea levels, which the UN
International Panel on Climate Change estimates at between 18cm and
59cm by 2050, and coastal erosion along the Gulf of Thailand, there
are scenario estimates that Bangkok could soon be contending with
regular flood waters up to 2 meters high. Salt water intrusion
scenarios could also compromise drinking water aquifers as well as
agricultural production. Present day estimations of infrastructure
requirements and economic loss are calculated by academics and BMA
at around US$5 billion to "climate-proof" Bangkok.

BMA CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION ACTION PLAN
-----------------------------------------
6. Last month, ESTHoff and US Embassy Science Fellow met with
Suwanna Jungrungruen, Director of Policy and Planning Division at
the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). (Note: BMA
participated in WIREC (Washington International Renewable Energy
Conference) in 2008. At WIREC, BMA pledged renewable energy
actions, but most of the Thai BMA staffers who went to this meeting
have moved to new positions. Renewable energy relates to Bangkok
inundation scenarios in that BMA is encouraging clean and recyclable
infrastructure as a way to mitigate climate change GHGs and curb
water use. End Note). Thai research indicates that climate change,
sea level rise, flooding and subsidence are creating future disaster
scenarios for Bangkok similar to New Orleans.

BANGKOK 00000454 002.2 OF 003

IDEAS FOR COLLABORATION
-----------------------
7. ESTHoff asked BMA how the U.S. could best collaborate on issues
associated with subsidence in Bangkok region, climate change, and
flooding from both sea level rise and increased overland flow from
river and intense precipitation events. BMA is most interested in
collaboration associated with their Action Plan on Global Warming
Mitigation based on 5 initiatives: 1-Expand Mass Transit & Improve
Traffic system 2-Promote use of Renewable Energy(Biofuels) 3-Improve
Building ElectriQy Consumption Efficiency 4-Improve Solid Waste
Management & Wastewater TQtment Efficiency 5-ExpanQark Area
(plant more trees and increase open space to hold more water, absorb
CO2 and lower air temperatures). The goal of the Action Plan is to
reduce emissions 15 percent by 2012 and to climate proof Bangkok.
(Comment: This current action plan has little to deal with flooded
infrastructure.)

8. Presently soil maps are not used as references for city planning.
BMA is using diversions and holding ponds ("monkey cheeks") as
flood water mitigation strategies on a small scale outside of
central Bangkok. USDA expertise on soil mapping could help BMA
plan its water infrastructure measures. BMA is interested in
educating the public on green infrastructure; rooftop gardening;
water consumption and runoff-cistern systems; recycling; and energy
consumption. USG public education materials would be helpful.
Making the link between research and policy choices is also needed.
An international visitor program with multi-disciplinary
participants could show BMA managers and scientists how the U.S. has
dealt with similar issues in New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta.
The USGS and USDA have experience in researching, managing and
presenting to the legislature the issues associated with subsidence,
flooding and sea level rise.

A DIKE ACROSS BAY OF THAILAND?
------------------------------
9. On February 1, ESTHoff, Staff and US Embassy Science Fellow went
to a well-attended presentation, "Is Bangkok Sinking?" that
summarized Bangkok's subsidence history, the need for more research
on cause and effect scenarios with climate change in SE Asia coastal
regions, the need for a regional approach for adaptation and
mitigation strategies already considered to contend with
conservative future flooding scenarios, education of the general
population in Bangkok to fuel political will to address the problem
proactively.

10. Dutch Professor Cor Dijkgraaf advocated a the building of a dike
based on Netherland model designs in the Bay of Thailand to contain
flood waters and protect the city from climate change sea level rise
and storm or tsunami surges. Similar dike strategies are being
considered in United States (New Orleans), South Korea, Vietnam,
Indonesia and Bangladesh. Environmental consequences were mentioned
as a concern but not addressed directly. Other technological
concerns such as positive pumping of wastewater for treatment
outside the city, mangrove reforestation to protect coastlines and
technology to reverse subsidence and increase holding capacity in
groundwater reserves were mentioned as interests by the audience but
not directly addressed by the panel as viable long term strategies.


11. Comment: For Thailand, the proposed location of this dike could
turn the northern portion of the Gulf of Thailand into a freshwater
lake, encompassing the important tourist resorts of Hua Hin and
Pattaya. Shrimp and other fisheries would be devastated and
commercial shipping affected if not strangled. The billions of
dollars price tag would significantly divert resources from other
infrastructure priorities. BMA officials noted that the dike is
only one scenario under consideration but other ideas are few. This
is where the USGS expertise could play a significant role in
educating the Thai how diking actions have had counterproductive
effects in the U.S. New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta, with its
extensive rice agriculture, are arguably more analogous to the Chao
Praya Delta than it is to the Netherlands, upon which the diking
plan is based. End Comment.

12. On February 3, ESTH officer and US Embassy Science Fellow met
Dr. Anond Snidvongs (who led the Is Bangkok Sinking? Event),
Director of the Southeast Asia START Regional Center (SEA-START) at
Chulalongkorn University. SEA-START is one of eight regional

BANGKOK 00000454 003.2 OF 003


centers of the Global Change System for Analysis, Research and
Training (START) network, a joint project of the International
Geosphere-Biosphere, International Human Dimension and World Climate
Research Programmes. The START network has been actively working
with APEC on 2010-2050 climate change scenarios. Anond explained
that strategies to help Bangkok could adversely affect the important
rice industries on the Bangkok plain. He asserted that interagency
planning to safeguard the citizens and infrastructure of Bangkok
while maintaining the various economic sectors is relatively
underdeveloped. While Bangkok has a long history of dealing with
flooding, the impending sea level rise challenges urban planning
beyond the city's current ability to cope, he said.

COMING EVENTS
-------------
13. SEA-START and the East-West Center of Asian Pacific Network are
co-organizing an international workshop entitled "Climate Change
Vulnerability Assessment and Urban Development Planning for Asian
Coastal Cities" August 23-September 1 in Bangkok to encourage
locally led climate change risk and vulnerability assessment and its
application to urban development and governance. SEA-START
especially supports education for the general public on climate
change issues and future impact scenarios to fuel political
government-supported action. This workshop follows on a similar
2008 workshop. The APEC Center for Technology Foresight (based in
Bangkok) also put on a workshop in 2008 for climate change dangers
to Asian coastal mega-cities. The upcoming International Visitors
Program on Liveable Cities, to which Post is sending a Thai
participant, should provide good exposure to U.S plans for dealing
with coastal cities.

NEXT STEPS AND RESEARCH NEEDS
-----------------------------
14. Interlocutors told us that USG scientific expertise would be
helpful with respect to regional data collection and analysis for
environmental impacts of climate change adaptation scenarios. There
is interest in the USG sharing emerging technology on clean urban
infrastructure, flood control strategies, waste water treatment
facilities and forecasting mechanisms through regional associations
as well as Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and other mega-city
entities. Organizers of the SEA-START international workshop on
Asian coastal cities' climate change vulnerability and risk
assessment requested U.S. expert speakers. Expansion of the USGS
DRAGON program to encompass Hanoi's Red and Bangkok's Chao Praya
rivers would bring these vulnerable cities into the Lower Mekong
Initiative environmental collaboration.

REFERENCES
----------
Bangkok Metropolitan Administration
Action Plan on Global Warming Mitigation 2007 - 2012
http://www.baq2008.org/system/files/BMA+Plan. pdf. Bangkok
Assessment Report on Climate Change 2009
http://www.roap.unep.org/pub/BKK_assessment_r eport_CC.
JOHN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

UN: Decades Of Health Gains At Risk In Brazil Due To COVID-19

Although COVID-19 cases are declining in Brazil, the pandemic is putting decades of public health gains there at risk, the head of the World Health Organization ( WHO ) said on Friday. With global attention and support focused this week ... More>>

UN Report: Myanmar Approaching Point Of Economic Collapse

The turmoil following the military coup in Myanmar, coupled with the impact of COVID-19 could result in up to 25 million people – nearly half of the country’s population, living in poverty by early next year, a United Nations report said on Friday. That ... More>>

World Vision: India’s Second Wave Shows The Global Fight Against COVID-19 Is Far From Won

As India’s COVID-19 daily infection rates reach devastating levels, international aid agency World Vision has warned that the world is nowhere near defeating this virus and some nations are yet to face their worst days. Andrew Morley, World Vision ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

UN: Learning From COVID-19, Forum To Highlight Critical Role Of Science, Technology And Innovation In Global Challenges

New York, 4 May —To build on the bold innovations in science, technology and innovations that produced life-saving solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN will bring together experts to highlight measures that can broaden the development and deployment ... More>>

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us: “Healthcare Can No Longer Exist Without Technology”

A grandmother in a village in the Gambia should have the same quality of life and access to healthcare they deserve as in New York or London. Photo: InnovaRx Global Health Start-up Works To Bridge Healthcare Gap In The Gambia By: Pavithra Rao As ... More>>

UN News: Motherhood On The Brink In Yemen

War, a humanitarian crisis, a looming famine, a health system close to collapse and the deepening impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a “catastrophic situation” in which a woman dies in childbirth every two hours in Yemen, according to the UN ... More>>