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Rising sea 'could ruin east coast in 30 years'

Published on 15 October 2014 Thailand

CLIMATE CHANGE is putting people living in the eastern part of Thailand at risk, as a study shows a significant part of the eastern coast would not exist in 30 years without mitigation plans.

"Perhaps, locals will have to relocate," said Robert Mather, head of Southeast Asia Group and also project manager of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Building Resilience to Climate Change Impacts-Coastal Southeast Asia (BCR).

Living on the coast of Trat's Klong Yai district, Papassorn Sunet said she had to elevate her house twice already in the face of soaring seawater level. 

At a recent panel discussion, part of Trat's provincial-level conference on climate-change mitigation, environment experts at a seminar in Trat unveiled their research that showed the sea level in the area has risen above the global average level. 

Mather pointed out that the sea level in Trat and Chanthaburi provinces had risen by 4-5 millimetres per year, against the mean global level change of 3mm.

Due to the higher sea level, the provinces would suffer dearly from coastal erosion, he said. In 30 years, he expected the coast in the three provinces to narrow by 15 metres, making the area the most fragile in the country.

The study by Jonathan Shott, project manager and disaster management consultant for Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF), showed that the sea-level rise in Trat, estimated at about 0.20mm per annum during 2030s, could escalate to above 0.25mm in 2040s and above 0.35mm in the 2050s. Likewise, the sea level in Chanthaburi is also expected to rise in the period: by 0.19mm per annum in 2030s, 0.27mm in the 2040s and above 0.35mm in the 2050s respectively

Trat would also suffer from higher temperatures. The number of days when the mercury is 35 degrees Celsius or higher is expected to increase from 53 days per annum during the 1980 to 2009 period, to 92 days in 2030s, 110 days in 2040s and 138 days in 2050s. 

"These changes will directly affect fishermen in Trat province where most of them rely on natural resources to earn a living," Shott said. "So, it's important that the locals know how to adjust themselves with the weather impact."

Puchong Saritdeechaikul, director of Natural Resources and Environment Ministry's Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Centre 1, noted that man-made action was mainly to blame for changes around coastal areas. Shrimp farming, for example, generates sediment. Once this sediment reaches the sea, it harms the sea environment and leads to a reduction in marine life.

To mitigate the negative impact, localities will need to help themselves first, before seeking government help. Some may need to change their profession, as marine lives gradually disappear from the area.

Chid Manapruk, a fisherman from Tambon Khong Ta Kien, Trat, said that in the past 4-5 years the beach in front of his home has been narrowed by about 20 metres. "Another 20 metres and the water would engulf my house," he said. "I may have to evacuate to other places, though I don't have any land elsewhere." 

Ravadee Prasertcharoensuk, SDF director, noted that though some communities can adjust themselves to climate change, a provincial master plan is necessary as that will involve all in the process.

She said that local participation is also necessary in completing the master plan to ensure the effectiveness of the plan. Locals know their areas the best, she noted.

"The provincial adaptation plan should be more effective with the cooperation between authorities and the locals. Through this, the locals will be more capable of addressing the real challenges," she said.

Setthapan Krajangwongs, head of the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning's UNFCCC coordination section, also believed that local engagement in the master plan drafting will help better address the challenges, as each area has its own different problems.

"People in one area may face coastal erosion, those in other areas may suffer from shortage of marine lives. When these people help brainstorm, the plan can contain some details which specifically address particular problems," he said.

Prasit Yindee, the vice chair of the Trat-based Rak Talay Nom Klao Group, said residents of Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat had now formed a network to share information and improve the monitoring of climate-change impacts."We are now on alert. During the past few years, locals have no longer seen climate change as something irrelevant to their lives," he said. 

Trat hosted the seminar to seek opinions from experts, authorities and localities in drafting the provincial master plan. Next month, a follow-up session will be held with the governor.

Setthapan said Thailand was in the final stage of enforcing the Climate Change Master Plan, which will cover plans for the nation from 2014-2050. It will cover five areas, which will be affected the most by climate change - water, food security, tourism, resources and resettlements. He expects the master plan to win the government's approval sometime next year.

Source: The Nation | 29 September 2014