Khun Wichsinee Wibulpolprasert of TDRI writing in The Bangkok Post last Wednesday is right to be alarmed at Thailand featuring in the Top Ten (or rather bottom ten) of nations facing Climate Change problems. Certainly Bangladesh and Vietnam are there as they’re already cited by the UN for the most Climate Change danger due to the flooding of their heavily-populated deltas. And Philippines is no doubt in the list due to acting as SE Asia’s windbreak and bearing the brunt for ever more deadly typhoons such as Haiyan.
While Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua especially, face the storms of the Caribbean and Pacific. Khun Wichsinee is right that Thailand is also best-placed though, as the wealthiest nation in that Climate Change top ten, to be able to throw money at the problem of Climate Change - especially given c.200BN THB or c.$100BN in damages since 1989. But Thailand resolving the deluges of Climate Change sometime soon, may be akin to standing in the shower and tearing up £20 notes – or rather 1,000THB notes - if such monies are not invested wisely. And, further afield we’re seeing South Sudan slipping into famine through Climate Change and war with UK and others evacuating their citizens last week. If not Sudan and Somalia and Ethiopia and Eritrea also following that horrific path and ending up in refugee camps such as the Calias jungle.
As an MP candidate in UK, with a focus on Thailand and ASEAN issues, it gives me no pleasure to say that Britain has undergone, and failed, similar Climate Change stress tests for floods in recent years. Britain may be cold and rainy for much of the year, but the precipitation is nothing like as dangerous as the deluges or droughts that Thailand or Vietnam or Bangladesh face. And yet, year in and year out, Britain reports flood after flood, so that the countryside of Keats and Wordsworth – or Dickens and Darwin here in Kent - is so often underwater as to be a testament to both Climate Change, and the failure of the Environment Agency, one of UK’s worst government departments.
The UK’s loss of farmland for food production and damage to roads and railways and costs in police and army helicopters and boats to rescue stranded civilians, and the billions of dollars in insurance claims, is I hope what Thailand and Vietnam and Philippines will not face for much longer. Rather, UK could learn from Thailand and Vietnam in their expertise with tsunami protection given the new Early Warning System in place after Phuket’s tsunami, and Vietnam having the lowest in Climate Change disaster casualties due to excellent organisation: usually no more than a dozen or so deaths in VN compared to hundreds form Morakot in China or Taiwan or the appalling mess in USA with Hurricane Katrina.
Britain’s north eastern coast is crumbling into the sea with tidal erosion and storms that sensibly-managed flood defences could reduce, as well as creating jobs now and in the future. Bristol and Cardiff two of UK’s largest cities face a flood danger with the second highest tidal range in the world. And the increasing use of the Thames Flood barrier used upto 50 times in 2013 to protect London. And, the English Channel coast here in Kent, and near neighbours Belgium and Holland, faces similar mini-tsunami tidal surge and floods that killed hundreds in 1953 and 1978, and even more damage way back in Tudor times. And, Thailand’s rice sector, loss of mangrove forests to hold back floods, concreting of Bangkok’s klongs for roads, are all similar contributors to Climate Change problems. And the new Bangkok Metro is a miracle of engineering, as per London’s new tube and Crossrail, but the city is slowly sinking, a test that HCMC faces too. A need for Dutch experience in water control – it’s not called the Low Countries for nothing – could be ideal for Thailand, UK and NL, and wider ASEAN in the Disaster Control programme, Khun Wichsinee mentions- and EU Disaster Control ERCC with its various field offices in Asia. At the very least, Cycling could end up being a useful spinoff benefit from drier roads in all 3 nations as Tokyo2020 nears.
UK experience in parks and gardens and food retail and wholesale could also be of use, with less floods from Loch Lomond to the Lake District to the logistics hub of Leicester, the home of the Siamese Foxes. As well as reallocating water from the rainy North to the drought-ridden South whether by pipelines or desalination projects. If anything though, UK is too centralised in the logistics hubs around Leicester, that could prove damaging in Disaster Control emergencies. That’s a situation that Thailand would be advised to plan around, as the almost constant flow of refrigerated vans for 7-11 and Tesco Lotus become too much for its roads requiring more efficient road haulage systems with or without electric and selfdriving cars. While reducing the extremes of water flow, and dangers of open sewers and health benefits of monsoon-proof sewers and sewage systems (even agricultural management of the barays in Cambodia) would be worthwhile Climate goals for Thailand along with potable tap water as in Singapore.
And if Thailand contributes only 1% of carbon outflows as Khun Wichsinee says then that could easily be maintained and improved through a cohesive programme of solar panel installation and electrical car charging posts – something UK blows hot and cold on, bizarrely even cutting incentives for solar manufacturing and use.
Indeed UK has largely stalled on Climate Change programmes after the passing of laws back in 2008 – a blockage that hopefully the new PM could loosen. (While writing this article, new PM Theresa May has indeed done so, by flushing away the whole DECC Climate Change dept). Similarly UK’s management of fisheries has been abysmal over the years with the North Sea, previously teeming with cod and Dover sole and seabass, almost completely dead. The recent spate of whales being beached and starving to death along the North Sea coast is a testament to the lack of fish in that sea. And the ruin of the fishing industries, that hopefully aquaculture reseeding will revive, has barely begun amidst the Brexit kerfuffle over EU fisheries and agriculture policies, and Thailand is proving more diligent in managing both fishing and trafficking. Chaopraya promenade and such as Yodpiman heritage walks would be a superb addition to both water management and the beautification of Bangkok – as happened in London with the iconic Victoria Embankment along the Thames, and Parliament visible through the mist of air pollution and roar of traffic.
While closer cooperation between UK Met Office and Thai Met office for early warning of typhoons and floods and droughts must be key along with flood and coastal defences, whether SCB and SCG—ADB funded, to manage KH and Mekong flows through to the Tonle Sap and Mekong Delta, the Laos—China river patrols, and increased use of cloud seeding for rainfall in China, are at worst a precursor of the water wars that could also affect India and China, and Central Asia and Russia. Kent has faced similar problems of Climate and food, despite being The Garden of England. Over 90% of orchards lost (remember the bucolic Darling Buds of May television show and the fields and harvests it depicted?) since WW2. Such orchards and hedgerows secured top soil (as well as bees now declining rapidly) and managed water. While excessive housebuilding on flood plains that unsurprisingly then flood, and weak road and flood policies/defences and disaster management plans have been dismal.
Climate Change is a hidden factor in the healthy eating debate in UK with Sugar as the New Tobacco. Battle-lines are being drawn between the Big Sugar Businesses lobbying on pricing - and the implicit right to get fat and sick. And consumers and government are too-slowly, reformulating products, banning children’s advertising, and pricing-out the ill health of diabetes and obesity, yet to run its course with 4.9M deaths globally. While how dynamic Thai companies such as Tipco are supposed to plan for fruit crops – as well as benefit from the boom in healthy eating in the UK and EU - in the face of Climate Change is beyond me. The boom in coconut water in UK is a market worth $100M complete with advertising by Rihanna and Madonna, and bamboo water as another super-drinks segment. The elaborate claims of such drinks aside, UK supermarkets haven’t yet grasped the possibilities in phasing out SSPiF foods: salt, sugar, processed and fat, for a greater variety of fruit and healthier foods from suppliers such as Tipco.
Gone are the days of pineapples, melons, coconuts, or pomegranates being superfoods in cranky health food shops. Nor why Britain lags behind Canada and Japan with 5 a day fruit rather than 10 a day. Older readers may even remember the rarity of bananas and oranges in Britain during WW2 and for a decade afterwards, due to a too –narrow reliance on Empire/Commonwealth sources and Uboat attacks. Air pollution too is proving a massive killer in UK of at least 40,000 people a year with the smog of warmer summers, and heat-stroke deaths as well as the horrifying 3,000 extra Winter pensioner deaths in colder winters already. Plus almost 3,000 deaths in road accidents – all woefully feeble for the world’s 5th largest economy.
Certainly a joint UK-Thai Road Safety programme as a minimum would be useful given Thailand faces carnage of 40,000 deaths each year – especially over the peak Xmas holiday and tourism season.
And, Coastguard and RNLI charitable institutions are key in UK in saving lives in ever stormier seas – here in Kent winning not one but 12 US Presidential medals in the nineteenth century for saving American shipwrecks and sailors. And over 140,000 lives saved in UK since 1824 by RNLI. Presumably along with relevant use of helicopters and airlift cargo helicopters for people, livestock and food aid. While I was horrified to learn from the Amateur Swimming Association that 20% of UK adults cannot swim and 69% cannot swim more than 100M. This in a country surrounded by water, and with compulsory swimming lessons (and road safety) at schools for decades. The death tolls will be even higher in say Vietnam with few swimming lessons and 9 deaths a day already. Even in the aforementioned Mekong Delta only 35% of children can swim.
While, longer-term, such existing UK Resilience and Disaster Management Plans don’t even consider the potential for a minimum longevity plan of say 100, and all its implications, beyond inching along at 2 extra years per decade. Khun Wichsinee is right that Climate Change is both real and increasing, so the more effectively Thailand and ASEAN can manage its problems the better, and the more UK and Netherlands can help the better.
Tim Garbutt, Director of Sincerity Advertising and PR agency
* Sincerity article: Thai Foreign Minister, Khun Surin Pitsuwan and Thai-UK trade:
* Sincerity article: Soda Wars go pop http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/
* Surin Charity: Malaria a brief thought: http://surinvillagecharityschool.blogspot.co.uk/
* Sincerity article on Coca-Cola: http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/sweet-moves-from-coca-cola.html
* 21st century Britain agenda article: http://lovekentloveramsgate.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/a-21st-century-britain-agenda.html * No Tobacco Day Smoking Sincerity article: http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/axaing-tobacco-and-china.html
* EK Remedial points 2016: http://lovekentloveramsgate.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/kent-remedial-work-and-uk.html
* EK strategy 2016: http://lovekentloveramsgate.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/garbutt-time-for-change-2016-east-kent.html
* Time for a Free Economy article: http://lovekentloveramsgate.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/time-for-free-economy-tobacco-china-and.html
* Surin restaurant review: top Thai restaurant in Kent:
Surin Thai restaurant the best Thai restaurant in Kent and one of only 45 of any cuisine in Kent according to KM: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/whats-on/news/our-guide-to-the-best-96108/ http://surinrestaurantramsgate.blogspot.co.uk/