Business, Economics and Jobs

Campaign promise: massive dam shall save Bangkok from sinking


A Thai woman cleans the floor of a flooded market in Bangkok on October 28, 2010.



Even as campaign promises go, this one's epic.

As Thailand's July 3 election approaches, the nation's main opposition party is promising to construct a 30-kilometer long wall to dam off the Gulf of Thailand.

That's a staggering 18 miles worth of concrete.

This dam, the "For Thais" party promises, will save Bangkok from sinking into the ocean. How will they pay for this engineering feat? By generating revenue from a "new city" that shall rise from what is now an underwater gulf floor between the shore and the would-be wall.

"We don't have to save money to build the dam and fill in the sea," according to a Thai-language policy brief. "We'll get 300-square kilometers (115 square miles) of new land" that can be transformed into a "new" and "modern" city.

Regardless of whether or not this is cost-effective, environmentally safe or even possible, Bangkok is indeed sinking. And, so far, little has been done to ward off this looming crisis.

The nation's disaster chief -- who famously predicted the devastating 2004 tsunami -- has warned that much of the capital will be submerged beneath 1.5 meters of seawater by 2030. He's also called for a dike across the Gulf of Thailand. Its estimated cost? $2.8 billion.

Why is Bangkok flooding exactly? As over-development and groundwater-sucking factories push downward on the coastal city's clay soil, global warming is causing sea levels to rise. Global Post has covered the threat twice before: here's "Bangkok is Sinking" and "Waterworld in Thailand.", which has an great panoramic graphic of a temple swallowed by sea water.

Much of the recent coverage of the opposition "For Thais" party has focused on their prime minister candidate, Yingluck Shinawatra, the 43-year-old, U.S.-educated sister of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 military coup. She may very well become the nation's first female prime minister.

But few seem to have noticed that a rather drastic plan -- to dam off Thailand's coast -- is part of her core platform.