Thailand: UNDP responds to severe flooding

Oct 17, 2011

In Thailand, severe flooding has killed more than 280 people and affected more than 2 million others – including this man in Bangkok – since 25 July this year. (Photo: Shermaine Ho/IRIN)

Bangkok – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has expressed deep concern and offered support to the Government of Thailand as the country battles severe flooding that has killed more than 280 people and affected more than two million others since July this year.

More than 80 percent of the country’s 76 provinces have been affected by the floods. In excess of 900 industrial plants and farmland areas have suffered damage and millions of heads of livestock have been affected.  

Nearly 30 provinces have been declared disaster areas and 12 are on high alert for threats of heavy rain and river overflow.

The UN has been in regular contact with  authorities including the Thailand Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, and has been monitoring the flood situation and its humanitarian and development impacts.

According to the country’s irrigation authorities, 11 out of the 26 major dams in Thailand currently hold more water than their official capacity, while others are between 82 and 99 percent full, and need to release excess water, forcing more evacuations in downstream areas.

"A lot of the development patterns pursued over decades are actually now precipitating" the ongoing flood disaster in Thailand, Kamal Kishore told PBS NewsHour on 14 October. Kishore is a Senior Policy Advisor with the UNDP Disaster Reduction and Recovery Team.

"If you look at areas around Bangkok, there used to be a lot of marshlands, catchment which will hold water in excess rainfall conditions, and then drain gradually. All of those marshlands, as the land crisis grew and the economic value of that land got enhanced, have been built upon."

"So you don't have that facility. Likewise, with natural as well as manmade drainage patterns, the system of canals, it has been severely disrupted over the last several decades, and now, when the exceptional rainfall occurs, the effect is exacerbated many times."

UNDP is increasing its own capacity to support the Thai people at this time, setting aside both financial and technical emergency resources, and will continue to work with the Government to support Thailand’s longer-term recovery and rehabilitation.

"We have to look at how we develop our cities, how our regional planning takes place. We have to assess these risks over the long term, not just look at year-to-year, but over decades, sometimes even more than that," Kishore said, adding that Thai officials have done extremely well in saving lives.

The 21st century has been marked by an escalating impact of disasters from natural hazards and a huge loss of life and destruction of livelihoods and communities. In 2010, nearly 400,000 people were killed by disasters worldwide and more than 200 million were affected. Economic damage was estimated at US$110 billion.

“Vulnerability to disasters is growing faster than resilience,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday in his message to mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction.  “Disaster risk reduction should be an everyday concern for everybody. Let us all invest today for a safer tomorrow.”

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