Urbanization in Thailand
Bangkok, perhaps more than any other major city in the world, dominates the country’s urban development. The capital and its five surrounding provinces are host to almost half of the urban population of the country. And when the Eastern Seaboard adjoining the metropolitan region is included, the combined area accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the country’s urban population.
Nonetheless, the momentum of Thailand’s urbanization is shifting towards smaller cities. Thailand has 1,120 sub-district municipalities (administratively defined as less than 50,000 inhabitants) and 36 towns (between 50,001–500,000 inhabitants). Nine of these have a population over 300,000 people.
Most of Thailand’s urbanization is unplanned. There are only urban zoning plans throughout the country and 95 of these have expired. A lack of oversight means that there is a regulatory “vacuum” permitting practices in urban development.
Key Urban Climate Change Resilience (UCCR) issues
Lack of integration of water resources management: Devastating floods in 2011 displaced more than 1.5 million people, left more than 800 dead, and caused US$46.5 billion in damages and losses. The management of water resources and flooding in Thailand is fragmented. Past attempts to consolidate water and flood management has been somewhat ad hoc and transitory.
Urban development regulations and governance: There is a lack of capacity in government to effectively implement land-use regulations and institutional arrangements for urban planning.
TEI has been working on climate change issues since its establishment in 1993 and has focused on conducting policy research for the public sector. TEI has also served as the in-country coordinator in Thailand for ACCCRN (Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network) M-BRACE (Mekong-building Resilience to Climate Change in Asian Cities) and the Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia Partnership project. In its role, TEI has focused on leading multi-sector initiatives in pilot cities and on sharing findings and information and lessons-learned from city-level networks to national and regional levels.
In the on-going effort to establish a network for building climate change resilience, TEI has partnered with several international organizations including ISET (Institute for Social and Environmental Transition) and ADPC (Asian Disaster Preparedness Center). It has also received assistance from public institutions such as ONEP (Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning); DPT (Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning); NESDB (National Economic and Social Development Board); and MLT (Municipal League of Thailand).
Funding: The Rockefeller Foundation
Cities: Hat Yai, Chiang Rai
ACCCRN aims to expand and deepen the base of urban climate change resilience work to achieve greater scale beyond cities currently engaged. While the work of ACCCRN partners focuses on building resilience at the city level, the Network is also regional and global in its outlook and outreach. One of the key objectives of ACCCRN is to share success stories and encourage cities around the world to replicate effective strategies and activities.
Cities: Udon Thani, Phuket
The approach that M-BRACE has adopted is to build an informed public process to support city stakeholders to come together for informed dialogue, to assess vulnerabilities related to the inter-linkages between urbanization and climate change, and to identify, test, and implement initial measures towards building resilience. M-BRACE has been building networks of academics and researchers in Thailand and Vietnam as well as building bridges across the two countries. M-BRACE is a collaborative program managed by ISET-International(Thailand) in partnership with the TEI (Thailand) and NISTPASS (Vietnam), targeting a diverse range of city-level stakeholders from local government, civil society, and academia.
Funding: IDRC and SSHRC
Cities: Currently under selection
The Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia Partnership is co-led by TEI and the University of Toronto. Together with academic, local government, and civil society partners, the team will refine and apply tools for assessing vulnerability and building climate-resilient local governance for cities in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. This project is a joint initiative funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
Further initiatives and links
- Mekong-Building Climate Resilience in Asian Cities (M-BRACE) – www.thaicity-climate.org/m-brace/page-mbrace-home.php
- Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia Partnership – urbanclimateresiliencesea.apps01.yorku.ca
- Udon Futures in Urban Climate Resilience – ccudon.org
- Hat Yai flood resilience building – www.hatyaicityclimate.org