While much of the United States continues with extreme droughts, huge swaths of Asia are struggling with record rains.
The Thailand floods in September and October of 2011 are some of the worst the country has seen in living memory, resulting in more than $3 billion in damage. The rainfall in Thailand has been about half again what is expected during a normal monsoon season.
At least ten percent of Thailand’s rice crop has been destroyed. With Thailand a leading world producer of rice, severe weather could raise food prices again this year.
The waters have breached flood barriers in much of the country, including, it’s rumored, in Bangkok. With more than nine million people living in Bangkok, there is enormous potential for loss of human life and property damage.
According to Kamal Kishore of the United Nations Development Program, the problem is part nature, part manmade.
In Thailand, as in much of the world, development for expanding human settlement has paved over much of the natural landscape. This alters drainage patterns.
Bangkok used to be surrounded by marshlands, which serve as a natural buffer during wet years. Extensive deforestation has also resulted in increased runoff.
However, it’s not just Thailand. Since rivers flow across international borders, a dam in China can have serious consequences for a downriver country. Thailand and the surrounding nations will have to look at what they can do inside their borders, while working together to create a regional solution to flooding.
Image by anothersaab, used with Creative Commons license.