Report stirs alarm over sinking city

Report stirs alarm over sinking city


The so-called
The so-called "leaning tower of Rangsit" remains one of the most visible warnings of subsidence in and around Bangkok. This seven-storey apartment block suddenly tilted in April, 2013, and had to be demolished. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)

The government should set up a national committee to deal with Bangkok's subsidence to prevent the capital from being submerged, according to the National Reform Council (NRC). 

The issue was raised at an NRC meeting Wednesday by Withaya Kulsomboon, chairman of the NRC panel responsible for drafting a report to address Bangkok's subsidence crisis.

A panel chaired by the prime minister is needed to deal with the crisis of rising sea levels and subsidence, according to the chairman. 

The situation is urgent, and the government may even have to consider relocating Bangkok, said Mr Withaya.

It should work on a long-term plan, and devise additional laws to protect Bangkok from going underwater, he said, adding that specific agencies should be assigned to implement the measures.

The government also need to increase public awareness of the issue, he said. 

Bangkok and its surrounding areas are only 0.5-2 metres above sea level, creating high risks of sinking and being affected by rising sea levels.

In the past two months, several roads alongside khlongs in Pathum Thani province have suddenly collapsed, flipping vehicles and in this case collapsed again, trapping maintenance equipment sent to the rescue. (Post Today photo)

According to panel member Sucharit Koontanakulvong, if nothing is done, Bangkok might be underwater in less than two decades.

The report found the city's subsidence is partly a result of groundwater pumping, which removed underground water faster than it could be replaced, compressing the soil.

Another aggravating factor is the excessive construction of buildings, which weigh heavily on the land, said Mr Withaya.

Bangkok has 4,000 buildings with between 8-20 floors, and 700 of more than 20 floors.

In addition, sea levels in the Gulf of Thailand continue to rise annually.

The NRC voted 166-to-5, with four abstentions, to accept the report's findings.

The council asked the panel to review the report once more and then send it to the cabinet within seven days.

One idea is to build barriers from Si Racha district of Chon Buri to Hua Hin district of Prachuap Khiri Khan to prevent the capital from being submerged and hold off coastal erosion, said Mr Sucharit, adding that the project would cost 500 billion baht.

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