Two-thirds of our planet’s surface is covered with water in motion. The extremes that cause flooding – storms and ocean events – are part of the water cycle, and we can expect more severe floods and droughts as the global hydrological system speeds up. There is nearly 20% more freshwater drainage flowing into the world’s oceans than there was a decade ago, a sign of global warming climate change and a harbinger of more devastating future flooding. Unusual amounts of heavy, torrential rainfall cause an imbalance when over-saturated soil can’t hold any more water. If forest cover is lost, runoff flows into streams, elevating river levels and subjecting downstream villages, cities and agricultural fields to flooding, especially during the rainy season, since many natural water reservoirs have been converted by short-sighted officials into road construction, residential areas and Industrial Park factory zones.
Human activity influences the frequency and severity of floods, which are primarily created by Mother Nature. Understanding the way humans habitually mistreat the eco-environment and change the surface of the Earth focuses on urban versus rural considerations as buildings and roads replace grass and dirt with concrete, city dwellers wanting to protect the commercial center and economic heartland whereas farmers want to protect the rice fields which represent their survival lifeline. Resolving the precarious relationship between humankind and nature is a rational precondition for adapting to progressive, sustainable socio-economic development. For starters, cooperative integration of flood management with water resources management is essential, incorporating “What If” forecasting and warning systems as well as preventative spatial planning measures for damage and risk reduction. All levels of government, public and private sectors, charitable foundations, the Thai Red Cross, NGO’s and concerned citizens should work together to share responsibility by developing a regional ASEAN long-term prioritized strategy and Action Plan to deal with the acute problems of drainage, water-logging, sanitation and public health based on science rather than superstition.
We should heed the sagacious advice, knowing guidance, and benevolent kindness of universally revered HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej to focus priorities on rescue support measures and pay attention to emergency crisis control. His Royal Majesty’s humble plea to keep upcoming 84th birthday celebrations as simple as possible should be respected, instead offering united support to the 800,000 victimized families and countless others inundated by the surging floods, which have wreaked havoc, eroded trustful confidence and caused humiliating damage to homes, rice fields, farmland, cattle, unemployment. What has impressed me most while watching the excellent news coverage, especially the on-site personal story interviews by Sorayute Suthasanajinda, is the inspiring stalwartness, good-hearted smiling nature and never give up coping resilience of local residents joining together to help each other to overcome, surmount obstacles and get on with lifestyle reconstruction, rehabilitation and renovation… with a little help from their caring and sharing friends – like you!
Dr. Chanchai Prasertson