Bangkok, Bangkok sinking, sinking cities
Sakchai Lalit/AP
Thai people wade though flood water at the Buddha Image Market in Bangkok, Thailand,
on Wednesday Oct. 11, 2006. 

Bangkok Is Latest to Join Roster of Sinking Cities

February 09, 2009 04:16 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Flooding has become commonplace in the Thai capital, and one disaster expert is saying that it portends trouble ahead.

Famed Meteorologist Issues Warning

In Bangkok, where steel and concrete structures lie atop soft clay, sinking is occurring at a rate of about 3 inches per year, and most of Bangkok could end up under about 5 feet of water by 2030, warns meteorologist Smith Dharmasaroja, the head of Thailand’s National Disaster Center.

“Right now, nothing is being done,” Smith said to the Global Post. “And if nothing is ever done? Bangkok will be flooded.”

Those who doubt Smith’s warning might want to keep in mind that in the 1990s, years ahead of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, he accurately predicted that a tsunami would destroy the country’s coast. Smith warns that thousands could die again if the government doesn’t build alert systems and take drastic measures, such as a proposed $2.8 billion dike spanning the Gulf of Thailand.

The world’s seas are rising due to the melting of the polar ice caps, which has been caused by global warming, at a rate of about one-tenth of an inch per year, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Far-flung low-lying locales such as Papua New Guinea and the Maldives, as well as places closer to home, such as Texas and New York, have been feeling the effects.

Background: Rising Sea Levels Affecting Cities Worldwide

Last year, some were calling residents of the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea the world’s first climate refugees. Rising sea levels have flooded plantations and coconut groves and threatened villagers livelihoods, according to a report by the humanitarian news organization IRIN. The government is looking to relocate residents of four islands to higher ground on the mainland.

In the Maldives, the island nation’s president, Mohamed Nasheed, announced a plan in 2008 to buy a new homeland in case his sinking country completely disappears. The new president of the Maldives, Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed, told British newspaper The Guardian that his government plans to start saving funds to relocate the entire country as a contingency plan in case the low-lying island nation sinks into the ocean due to climate change.

It has long been documented that Venice, home to historic art and architecture, has been sinking. Recently, the Christian Science Monitor reported that Venice has sunk 23 cm in the past century and its palaces, churches and stone bridges are now threatened by flooding more than 50 times a year. Residents there are currently debating a controversial multimillion-dollar floodgate plan called Project Moses, which calls for the construction of giant steel gates across inlets in the Adriatic. The city is also seeing some of its worst weather in decades, with torrential rains, record snowfall and hail causing extreme flooding issues in Rome and Venice according to a Bloomberg report last year.

In the U.S., coastal states such as New York and Florida are first in line to go underwater as sea levels rise. Alternet reports that a group of journalists taking a helicopter tour of the Greenland ice cap returned “shaken” by the evidence of melting that they observed. It also notes that the rapid melting of Greenland’s ice caps is causing earthquakes, as ice breaks up.

The Texas coast has already been shrinking, My San Antonio News reported in 2007. According to some estimates, parts of Houston are sinking a half-inch every year.

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines