Building Urban Climate Change Resilience in Bangkok

Submitted by Scott Muller | published 26th Nov 2012 | last updated 23rd Dec 2012

Bangkok hosted the 5th workshop of the Adaptation Partnership organized by ISET, July 31-Aug 2, 2012. The event focused on “A Community for Building Urban Climate Change Resilience in Asia”. Full presentations from the event can be downloaded here.

Since 1960, the population of the Metropolitan Region of Bangkok has expanded from 3 million people to over 12 million. Coupled with the escalating environmental pressures, including those associated with climate change, there are new, more complex and urgent governance issues to be addressed, common to so many rapidly growing mega-cities.

In late October 2011 Bangkok suffered huge floods that submerged an estimated 20% of the city. The World Bank estimated economic damages and losses from the disaster over US$45 Billion. Across the country, the flooding lasted 175 days, affected 65 of Thailand’s 77 provinces and flooded the homes of almost 19% of the country’s 67 million people. Responding to calls for action, the Government of Thailand concluded that the flooding in Bangkok was exacerbated by extensive deforestation in the watershed of the city. This has resulted in an official plan outlining intensive efforts by the government to reforest the watersheds of Thailand. Over the next 4 years, the program will plant 800 million saplings. This response is an example of ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation that link urban and rural areas.

In essence, the urban led efforts to revalue and protect ecosystem services along the urban-to-rural gradient are simply smart economic decisions to secure the benefits obtained by cities and people from ecosystems. While most residents are quite familiar with their city’s dependence on the provisioning services of ecosystems within and surrounding the city (eg. food, clean water, timber, beer, etc.), other types of benefits may not be so readily apparent, these include the regulating services (e.g. flood control, water quality, air quality, climate control, disease regulation and pollination) and supporting services (e.g. soil formation and nutrient cycling) of various ecosystems. These need to be recognized and factored into urban climate adaptation planning.