Without urgent action, Bangkok could be under water within 15 years because of excessive pumping from the aquifer, the weight of mushrooming development and rising sea levels, a panel set up by the National Reform Council has warned.
Immediate and costly solutions are needed to avert a catastrophe, the NRC committee studying the risk of Bangkok being submerged said in a report presented to parliament on Wednesday.
Witthaya Kulsomboon, head of the committee, said Bangkok and adjacent provinces were only 0.5 to 2 metres above mean sea level and sinking. The longstanding and excessive use of underground water in areas without tap water supplies and the heavy weight of tall buildings were accelerating the subsidence.
"There are about 700 buildings with 20 floors or more and 4,000 buildings with 8-20 floors in Bangkok. There are also many electric railways. These could cause the submergence of parts of Bangkok and surrounding areas in the future," he said.
Mr Witthaya recommended a national committee chaired by the prime minister be set up to handle the issue.
Solutions must be urgently implemented and would be costly, and the relocation of the capital might have to be considered, he said.
Some reform councillors proposed the government stop the growth of the capital and surrounding areas and move industries and businesses out of Bangkok.
The NRC is to send the submergence report to the cabinet in seven days.
Sujarit Khunthanakulwong, a member of the NRC committee, later said the exploitation of underground water and building construction must be controlled, "otherwise, Bangkok will be submerged in 15 years".
He recommended a sea wall embankment stretching from Si Racha district in Chon Buri to Hua Hin district in Prachuap Khiri Khan to protect the greater Bangkok area from rising sea levels. The cost of construction could be as much as 500 billion baht, Mr Sujarit said.