Bangkok Flooding 2011: How Bangkok has changed forever and the Legacy of the flood

Every natural disaster leaves a legacy. Here are five ways in which Bangkok and its people will be forever changed. Link: Read more on the...

Every natural disaster leaves a legacy. Here are five ways in which Bangkok and its people will be forever changed.

Link: Read more on the 2011 Bangkok Floods
Every natural disaster leaves a legacy. Japan's tsunami left a devastating legacy resulting in the Fukushima nuclear disaster and tens of thousands who may never be able to return home.

The catastrophic floods in Thailand will likewise leave a terrible legacy of its own. It will remind people that nothing is certain, and that anything can immediately turn into uncertainty in a split second.

Here are the five ways in which Bangkok will change even after the waters recede, houses are repaired and lives go on.

1) Bangkokians will become more humble

People in Bangkok have long felt that flooding is something that is distant to them. The closest that flooding would ever some is Ayutthaya, where it would stop. Sure, rice paddies would be submerged, people’s houses and livelihoods destroyed, but in Bangkok 7-Elevens would still be open 24-hours a day, while shopping malls would still be available for the moneyed middle class to spend the day and enjoy free air conditioning. All in the name of saving Bangkok, the rest of Thailand can flood.

This year, reality has brought the floods too close for comfort and in many cases, straight into people’s houses. For the first time in over a generation, Bangkokians feel vulnerable. It didn't matter how much money you have, how expensive your car is, who your father is, or how "hi-so" you were, you were a possible victim every single moment of the day. Flood waters did not discriminate whether you had a red license plate or whether your house was the swankiest neighbourhood this part of Lad Phrao - rich or poor, if you were in the way of water, the water would pass through you.

For the first time in living memory, Bangkokians have felt the pain of their countrymen living outside the capital. No longer will they be able to dismiss flooding upcountry with a flick of a hand, for it is now a clear and present danger which money, even if stuffed in sandbags, cannot stop.

They have been humbled: no longer will Bangkokians look down on people living in “bann-nok”, nor will they be quick to turn a blind eye to disasters in the country side. They will remember what it is like to lose everything. As business and political leaders are also part of the elite living in Bangkok, hopefully this experience will provide the willpower to finally push implementation unified policies and projects to stop devastating flooding throughout Thailand.

2) Inner Bangkok will be THE place to live in

Still dry here...
Bangkok is a relatively flat city. Compared to other cities such as Hong Kong, there are relatively few tall structures dotted around the place, as there's simply so much space to build on.

After the floods are over, this may change. It appears that the majority of inner Bangkok have escaped the floods because of a ring road which also acted as a massive flood barrier that was built by the King many years ago, in addition to measures that the government has taken to prevent water from reaching the main city.

The lesson learned here is that inner Bangkok, which generates 40% of Thailand's GDP, will be saved. All measures will be taken to prevent it from flooding and businesses being affected even if it involves flooding other, “less important” areas of Bangkok, and entire swaths of Thailand.

People will begin to move en masse into inner Bangkok, where it is "safe". Condos beside the BTS and MRT are already popular, and with this stimulus, it will only become even more popular from here on.

3) During a crisis, Twitter will become the main source of news

The government's credibility and their news outlets have, to put it mildly, suffered a credibility crisis which may never be repaired. Conflicting information, deliberately withheld information and a situation where politicians have become a part of the disaster have forced people to move to a potentially more reliable source of news: Twitter and other social media.

Armed with the power of people with iPhones and other smartphones, news from Twitter accompanied with live photos have again proven to be incredibly fast and powerful, similar to the red shirt protests of last year.

4) Traditional Thai houses may make a return

Traditional Thai houses were built on stilts, because flooding had always been part and parcel of Thai life: a reason why the soil in the Kingdom is so fertile.

A return of the traditional Thai house may be in order, or at least a modern variant of it, as people buying houses in areas submerged this year will undoubtedly want to know whether they could survive the next epic flood unscathed.

5) More people will use public transport

In the past two months as people have parked their cars on freeways, inside tall office buildings and condos to save them from the rising flood waters, people have been forced to use public transport. The little used Airport Link for example, is seeing a spike in ridership as residents find and utilize alternative methods to reach the inner city.

The main problem with acceptance of using public transport in Bangkok is the mindset. People are too used to taking their cars to go anywhere, and the image of public transport is definitely unsexy, nor is it convenient. Public buses here may cost 8 baht, but they are open windowed, hot and quite “lo-so.”

Bangkok has always been a car city, and the psyche of taking public transport has never been embedded into the Bangkok spirit, unlike in other cities such as Tokyo and Singapore.

Forced to use public transport, people may be inadvertently building this habit. With a bit of luck, many will continue to use public transport even after the crisis is over. Hopefully they will see that it is cheaper than driving, and overall a better way to start the day than braving Bangkok's notorious traffic.

* * *

Thai people have a habit of being able to have fun and laugh in the face of adversity. Bangkok may bounce back, houses may be rebuilt, but it has left a legacy: the threat of flooding is omnipresent and no longer is Bangkok immune. This will be one which this generation will never forget.

Link: Read more on the 2011 Bangkok Floods

Photo credit: Jo.sau

Note: 100th published article



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K Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: Bangkok Flooding 2011: How Bangkok has changed forever and the Legacy of the flood
Bangkok Flooding 2011: How Bangkok has changed forever and the Legacy of the flood
K Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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