Bangkok Warned City Could Soon Be Submerged

- VOA News Steve Herman,August 4, 2015

Bangkok is sinking.

That is not in dispute. There is no firm consensus, however, on how long the metropolitan area, home to about 10 million people, can remain inhabitable.

The National Reform Council (NRC), under Thailand's junta which runs the country, wants the government to establish a national committee to respond to scientists' warnings that Bangkok could be permanently underwater several decades from now.

In a neighborhood alongside the Saen Saeb canal, built in the late 1830's, there is already a sinking feeling.

The cracks in uneven pavement and sagging walls on homes, small shops and a mosque are testament to an inevitable fate of a waterfront area dropping two centimeters per year, twice the average rate of the rest of the capital.

‘Who will help us?’

“I don't know what to do. Who will help us? I don't know,” said Vijitri Puangsiri, who has lived here all of her 44 years in a home that faces annual repairs due to subsidence.

The towpath in front of her century-old house, where she runs a small restaurant, is also repeatedly in need of maintenance.

“If you take the canal boats you can observe how this is all hollow. The buildings are sinking because they were not constructed on solid foundations,” said Somsak Kongpeeng, a community volunteer and a neighbor of Vijitri's.

Somsak Kongpeeng half-seriously joked during a VOA interview on the towpath that if we returned to see him here again in 20 years, the water level would be up to his shoulders.

That might turn out to be only a bit of an exaggeration in a city with an average elevation of two meters and structures built atop soft clay.

A rising sea level, excessive pumping of groundwater and building so many high-rises are the primary causes of Bangkok's dropping elevation, according to those who have been studying the problem.

But the lucrative construction boom continues unabated, a folly to those sounding the water alarm.

Routine floods

“If we don't do anything, everybody will lose. Because if the land itself is sinking the value of land will also go down,” argued associate professor Sucharit Koontanakulvong, who heads the Water Resources System Research Unit at Chulalongkorn University.

The professor and other members of a panel predict that if no action is taken, repeated and sustained flooding beginning within the next two decades and lasting “two or three months,” would cause Bangkok's economy to grind to a halt.

That was experienced during the 2011 monsoon season, when 13 million people were affected by flooding – more than 800 died – and the economic damage to Thailand exceeded $45 billion, according to the World Bank.

In a July 25 editorial titled “Stop the city sinking,” the Bangkok Post fretted that despite previous flooding experiences and fresh warnings, indifference still seems to prevail.

The newspaper called for halting further expansion of the city, strategic divestment from Bangkok and a complete halt to pumping groundwater.

There are also calls to spend billions of dollars to shore up the frequently flooded capital with seawalls. Even with such a costly effort, nature could still eventually reclaim all man has built in this low-lying swampland in a river delta.

曼谷可能很快被海水淹没

- 美国之音赫尔曼,2015年8月4日

海平面上涨为沿海城市带来威胁。除了著名的意大利城市威尼斯和美国城市新奥尔良,有将近一千万人口的曼谷也面临同样威胁。不出几十年,曼谷将不再适宜居住。

维吉特里·旁瑟瑞感觉到地面下沉。她在这所房子里住了44年了,她曾在家里经历过下沉的感觉。这个街区临近运河,不平整的道路和墙面上的裂缝在向人们预示一个不可改变的命运。

曼谷居民维吉特里·旁瑟瑞说,“我不知道该怎么办,不知道谁可以帮助我们。”

这里是曼谷下沉最快的区域。每年下沉2厘米。这个速度是曼谷其他地区平均下沉速度的两倍。整个曼谷建立在一层软质黏土上面。

社区志愿者索姆萨克·孔彭说,“如果你坐在船上,从运河望向这片区域,你就会观察到这片土地是空心的。没有坚实的地基,建筑在下沉。”

索姆萨克·孔彭半开玩笑地说,如果20年后再在这里采访他,水会到他肩膀那么深。

导致下沉的主要原因就是海平面上升、过度开采地下水,以及日渐增多的高楼大厦。

利益驱使人们大兴土木,势头不减。正在为陆地下沉而发出警告的人们认为,这是很愚蠢的举动。

朱拉隆功大学教授萨查理特·孔他那卡翁说,“我们不能坐以待毙。如果土地下沉,地价就会下跌,没有赢家。”

有人说可以花费数十亿美元,修建防洪堤加固这座洪水频发的城市。可是就算是花费巨资,大自然仍旧会收回它所拥有的这片三角洲上的低洼湿地。