Flood Waters Inundate a Bangkok Airport – น้ำท่วมสนามบินดอนเมือง

It would be easy to assume, at first glance, that the watery rectangle in the center of this image is a harbor. Narrow structures extend into the blue water like docks; small white dots break up field of blue like ships on water; and the structures lining the area resemble large warehouses.

But on closer inspection, it becomes clear that the white dots are airplanes, and that the watery rectangle is the submerged runway complex of the Don Muang Airport. Located north of downtown Bangkok, the airport is in one of 31 districts affected by flooding in the Thai capital. All 50 districts remain under threat, according to local officials.

The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite took this image of Bangkok on October 29, 2011. Flooding is most obvious at the airport, but much of the area in the image is flooded. The spaces between buildings and under trees are blue. Signs of flooding are also evident throughout the large image, which includes a much wider area.

The floods started in late July as unusually heavy monsoon rains and a tropical cyclone inundated Thailand. Floods swelled rivers and filled reservoirs throughout the country. By late October, the floods reached Bangkok through the Chao Phraya River and numerous canals and smaller waterways. As of October 30, the floods had claimed 373 lives and affected more than two million people, said the government of Thailand.

The Don Muang Airport (also Don Mueang) started to flood on October 25 during a period of high tides. Even as floods were draining into the Gulf of Thailand on Bangkok’s southern shores, high tides pushed back, amplifying the floods. The Chao Phraya reached record levels on October 25, and floods spread across parts of Bangkok. The high tides have peaked, and water levels on the Chao Phraya have dropped slightly. Low tides in the coming days (November 3-15) will give the city time to drain standing floods and prepare for the next high tide, said Thailand’s Flood Relief Operating Center.

The Don Muang Airport, a domestic airport, stopped operations after the runways flooded on October 25. However, the building housed the Flood Relief Operating Center and some 4,000 flood evacuees. The evacuees were forced to leave on October 25, and the Flood Relief Operating Center moved on October 29 when the building flooded. The airplanes shown in the image were decommissioned before the flood. Bangkok’s primary airport, Suvarnabhumi, is still operating and is expected to stay dry.

References

  1. 24/7 Emergency Operation Center for Flood, Storm and Landslide. (2011, October 24). Flood situation reports. Accessed November 1, 2011.
  2. Bangkok Post. (2011, November 1). All districts in Bangkok still ‘at risk.’ Accessed November 1, 2011.
  3. Bangkok Post. (2011, October 26). Chao Phraya on the brink. Accessed November 1, 2011.
  4. Don Muang Airport Guide. (2011, October 25). Don Muang Airport temporarily closed due to floods. Accessed November 1, 2011.
  5. Government of Thailand. (2011, November 1). Announcement on flooding situation in Bangkok. Published on ReliefWeb. Accessed November 1, 2011.
  6. Government of Thailand. (2011, November 1). FROC: Overall flood situation has improved. Published on ReliefWeb. Accessed November 1, 2011.
  7. Government of Thailand. (2011, October 30). Floods kill 373, affect 2 mil. Published on ReliefWeb. Accessed November 1, 2011.
  8. The Nation. (2011, November 2). Suvarnabhumi ‘will be safe.’ Accessed November 1, 2011, 5:30 EDT).
  9. Poomhirun, C., Prasertpolkrung, J., Hoonsara, S. (2011, October 30). FROC forced to move from Don Mueang. The Nation. Accessed November 1, 2011.
  10. The Nation. (n.d.) What can be expected. Accessed November 1, 2011.

NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Instrument: EO-1 – ALI

Voting season needs political will for climate action

Climate change has already hit the Thai psyche. Almost every public opinion polls and surveys in the past years have been pointing in the same direction saying climate change and global warming are high on the Thai mindset , whether or not it is associated with sense of urgency, awareness or simply riding on a trend driven by corporate advertisements. Apart from that Thai people are increasingly aware of the possible affects of climate-change related events such as floods, , sea-level rise leading to coastal erosion in Bangkhuntien area, high incidence of infectious diseases such as dengue fever and Letrospirosis.

In May 2007, over 36 organizations representing almost all sectors – government, media, private sector, entrepreneurs, NGOs and other civil society groups endorsed the Declaration on the Cooperation for Alleviating Global Warming’ in Bangkok. The declaration was supposed to kick start the implementation of the 5-year Action Plan for Global Warming Alleviation (2007-2012). The action plan set a bold target to reduce carbon emissions of Bangkok city by 15% by 2012 with different approaches ranging from improvement of transportation system, promotion of alternative energies, energy conservation , building retrofit, solid waste and wastewater management to expansion of green area.

Now it is time for Bangkokians to cast their votes again to elect a new Bangkok governor and all the candidates are busy showing off their green credentials. And as expected, when the Thai society of environmental journalists organized a conference on “New Bangkok Governor’s Environmental Management Vision”, climate change was high on the agenda of all the major candidates.

Bangkok metropolis like other megacities of Toronto, London and New York is one of the major source of carbon emissions, all of which have started implementing its climate action plan last year. If the current governor of Bangkok-Mr Apirak Kosayothin- is able to retain his post, Bangkok Climate Action Plan should not only be continued but also has to be realigned to gain momentum in order to achieve the targets and practical outcomes. What is going to happen with the climate action plan if we get new political leader is a question that everyone should be asking. It might be changed, re-prioritized, improved or scrapped. That is really depending on political will of the one who is elected, given the fact that environmental policies of other major candidates are not very different.

Since the Nobel Peace Prize-wining Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the final nail in the coffin of global warming skeptics last year (2007) as Ban Ki-moon Secretary-General of the United Nations has put it, new scientific findings pointed it out that the climate system seems to be more sensitive to the effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations that previously estimated. Climate scientists worldwide are calling for urgent action : global carbon emissions has to peak by 2015 and cut by far more than half by 2050 in order to prevent disastrous climate change from happening. Last but not least, climate change conference in Bali has set the road for a new agreement to be concluded in Copenhagen in December 2009. If we want to avoid disastrous climate change to happen, we will need a very strong and very ambitious agreement to be made by all countries.

In this context, Bangkok Climate Action Plan, if we do it right, will set a good practice in helping world community to combat climate change. The next Bangkok governor, regardless of who it is , will have to exercise the leadership by placing ecological imperatives at the heart of city’s social and economic policy and development. The aim should be to not increase inequity but instead reduce the gap between political elites, consuming class and urban poor, as well as, ensuring participation of impacted communities in decision making processes on mitigation and adaptation options and assist these communities in funding and implementing climate adaptation measures.

In the run up to the election of the new Bangkok governor, all citizens must remember that casting vote is to endorse not only the best political will but defining the future of our Bangkok in the warming world. Collective action is the only way out of the imminent crisis facing us.