09 October, 2006

Bangkok Flooding: FunkyPix2 wins contract for supply of government-issue water-wings

The Wat Praiwan temple goes under (again) ...as traditional noodle-vendor canoes are being called out of retirement.

The casual observer of Bangkok (and Ayutthaya) will note the regularity of flooding from its main artery, the Chao Phya river. We at FunkyPix2 cast a weather eye 20 years into the future, and suggest that our beloved ‘City of Angels’ is confronting a chronic and worsening long-term flood problem. It’s always been labelled the ‘Venice of the East’, but buddy, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

Why worsening? Firstly is the obvious effect of the melt-down of the icecaps, El Nino, etc, meaning that water tables are rising (as they are world-wide). Secondly, the weight of yet more huge skyscrapers, Skytrain’s concrete pillars, etc, means that the landmass is gradually sinking: Bangkok was literally built on a bog (no, it wasn't a mistake - it used to be an advantage in times of boat-based transport networks). Even though foundations of buildings go down extremely deep into the ground, the city is literally continuing to sink under its own weight. I stayed there with a friend in the mid-nineties, and he remarked that even after 5 years he’d noticed that the downstairs loo lately wouldn’t flush properly at high tide.

There’s another vital clue. The network of canals ("Khlongs") which in times past served as the city’s transport system, once served the double purpose of absorbing floodwater at flood-peaks. All major rivers need a flood-plain… just ask the Nile. Now that most of Bangkok’s Khlongs have been filled in to become roads, voila… instant flood problem.

In FunkyPix (Vol.1) there are 3 brief articles (all adjacent on the same page) giving some cultural background to Thailand’s waterway heritage and 'boat' mindset:
* Thai maritime traditions persist in modern traffic and bus art
* The Thai "boat noodle shop" has a long tradition
* Size matters...

To read them, click here, then scroll down the page.

All the while, development of Bangkok is powering ahead as if there’s no tomorrow. More buildings, new extensions to Skytrain worth multiple billions of baht. One day, twenty years hence, will everybody have to pack up and leave because the water has finally got too deep to tolerate? Skytrain may be able to run because it’ll be above water, but will we be allowed to bring our canoe as hand-luggage?

PS: Bush and Howard remain the only two leaders in the world who are still refusing to sign up to the Kyoyo Protocols on Climate Change. Boo-hiss.

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