Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bangkok is Sinking!

How Bangkok might look in 25 years?
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It’s true. Bangkok will be totally submerged in sea water within 25 years, according to a slew of academics and researchers in the GEO2TECDI (GEodetic Earth Observation Technologies for Thailand: Environmental Change Detection and Investigation) project. Someone likes long names.

Bangkok, which is only 80 to 100 centimeters above sea level, is a sprawling mess of skyscrapers, traffic jams, and 7-elevens. At street level, where thousands of vendors cook and sell food from carts, filth is everywhere. Well, not exactly everywhere. Walking down one of the major roads, you’ll see a beautiful five-star hotel followed by a row of vendors selling everything from illegal CDs to chicken on a stick. Then you’ll walk past an abandoned building, which squatters may have taken over. Then more vendors cooking food. Then a 7-eleven. Then an area of the sidewalk that looks like a million pigeons had a bad curry. You get the picture. It’s not pretty.

Around fifteen meters above street level, however, Bangkok has a modern train system (opened in 1999) that links all the major übermalls. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some visitors never even get down to the street. This train system was built to alleviate Bangkok’s traffic worries. Although the trains were full every time I rode them, the streets were also crowded every time we took a taxi or a tuk-tuk (motorized open rickshaws).

75% of water pollution in Bangkok is domestic sewage

It’s hard not to have a smoke-em-if-you-got-em attitude when it comes to a city like Bangkok. Is it worth saving? The obvious answer to this question, considering the area is home to over 12 million people and is visited by an equal number of foreign tourists each year, is yes. Does Bangkok have an endless list of seemingly insurmountable problems? Yes.

Twelve million tourists a year

That list includes air pollution, traffic you can grow old and gray in, sex trafficking, and scams that target gullible tourists; but very high on the list is water pollution, 75% of which is domestic wastewater pumped mostly untreated into the Chao Phraya River. I’ve taken several rides on this river myself. If you’re on a large dinner cruiser, you don’t notice the filth beneath you; but in smaller boats where the spray from the waves occasionally wets your face, you do get the impression that you are floating in a septic tank. You are.

At least this place is clean

The King’s Palace is a diamond in the toilet, though (pardon the expression, King Bhumibol, but until Bangkok flushes, it’s a fitting expression). Let’s hope this happens before the whole place floods. What a mess that will be.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type. His award-winning fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in numerous places both online and in print. More HERE.