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Thailand

Will Bangkok Flood Again This Year?

It’s possible, says one expert in Thailand.

But a look at water levels in Thailand’s dams reveals that they seem to have plenty of capacity at this point.

A story in today’s Bangkok Post says:

Bangkok is at risk of flooding from heavy downpours caused by an unusually lengthy monsoon trough period and an imminent storm early next month, an expert has warned.

Run-off from the North, which last year left parts of the capital submerged, will only worsen the flooding because the real threat this year is rain that may overwhelm the current inadequate drainage system in the capital, said Thanawat Charupongsakul, a disaster and geographic expert at Geology Department of Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, yesterday.

The city has so far not released enough water from canals to the extent done back in 2006 when canals were left with plenty of capacity to hold floodwater, he said.

“To make things worse, City Hall has still not stopped quarrelling with the government over flood management,” he said.

(Indeed, during my reporting on last year’s inundation, some experts told me that a major problem was a lack of coordination between government agencies.)

And:

Mr Thanawat is most worried about October because that is when run-off from the North and high tides increase the water level in the Chao Phraya River.

The city’s river embankment is about 2.5m above mean sea level, but provinces upstream, especially those with industrial estates, have built and increased the heights of their levees and flood walls, so the run-off will be blocked and eventually move toward Bangkok

I understand that substantial work has, in fact, been done to fortify flood defenses around some industrial estates. So it makes sense that areas farther downstream could be at risk as water is displaced.

Meanwhile, Bangkok Pundit has an extensive post today on water levels in Thailand’s various dams.

(Some say a problem in 2011 was that not enough water had been discharged from such dams earlier in the year, meaning they were largely full when the heavy rains started and could not be used to retain excess water.)

The conclusion:

Simply put, while we still need to keep an eye on heavy rainfall which can cause flash floods, we don’t have the level of water entering the river system from the North and the Central regions that we did last year. Until this happens (which BP thinks is still very unlikely for this year), the risk of severe flooding is very low.

Ultimately, water management is a complex issue. But Bangkok drainage mechanisms, coordination among agencies, and water levels in dams seem to be key components.

(Bangkok Post link via @kmorit.)

By Newley

Hi. I'm Newley Purnell. I cover technology and business for The Wall Street Journal. I use this site to share my stories and often blog about the books I'm reading, tech trends, sports, travel, and our dog Ginger. For updates, get my weekly email newsletter.

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