I wrote this article because of a current event…or should I say a “recurring” event.

Every year, Thailand sees big area getting flooded in the rainy season from May to November.

And when I say “every year”, I mean since forever!

Take Ayutthaya for example. The city was built in a flood plain and has been getting swamped year after year since time began.

Even the Burmese knew that and actually –no joke – scheduled their battles with Ayutthaya accordingly, because they knew the plains around the city would be inundated during the rainy season.

And the floods had their benefits at that time. The rice fields received a welcome fertilization and the artificial reservoirs would be filled with water. So, it should really come as no surprise that Ayutthaya gets a share of flood-water, year after year.

Other places in Thailand that see this as well may it be Isan, with the run- off from Laos or Cambodia or other central- plains, with the run- off from the mountainous areas in the north. Even Bangkok itself has seen many floods throughout the decades.

So “why all the commotion”?, you might think.

The lighter side of the flood

First of all, people were much better adapted to nature. Houses were built on stilts, traditionally.

If a river overflowed, there were no walls, speeding up the increasing mass of water to parking lots and industrial estates, roads or buildings, which kept the water from draining away.

The water came, the water stayed a while, the water drained- end of story!

Today, large areas around, for example, Ayutthaya are cemented over. Natural draining areas like forests have made way for mega- supermarkets, highways or industrial parks. The water has nowhere to go. So it goes where people and businesses are, causing great damages. The rivers have been straightened out, sometimes walled in, speeding the water up.

Reservoirs and damns have been built; you could say man suffers from his own action and you would not be far off!

Last but not least, Thailand is still very much ruled by a feudal system, where the governor of a province is only looking out for “his” area. A “water plan” to control the level at the dams and reservoirs maybe in place (I highly doubt that), but is hardly ever followed.

If a region is suffering from a drought (which also happens almost every year during dry season), water will be released willy–nilly. During the rainy seasons, the reservoirs will be filled up again. And if the season brings more rain than usual and the reservoir is close to bursting, the water will be released in the middle of the rainy season, simply flooding other parts of the country, further south.

A factor that is very relevant for Bangkok is that the city is built on swamp land and is actually sinking at a rate of more than a centimeter a year.

That doesn’t sound too dramatic, I admit.

But the geographical profile of Bangkok already shows a “bowl”. A bowl, which will be 40 centimeters deeper in 30 years. And every centimeter makes it more difficult to pump the water out of the bowl.

Right! You have to pump it out because there is literally no water flowing through Bangkok any more. It seeps in from the North….and it stays.

...and the ugly face

It is actually a given fact that vast areas of Thailand will be flooded every single year. It is the way we act with nature, which turns an event, which has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years into a sudden annual disaster.