Rising sea levels, increased storm systems, and lack of adaptive capacity threaten Thailand’s livelihood, especially among fishing populations like those of the Laemsing District. The dependence on aquaculture for both nourishment and financial stability should be of great concern to the Thai government. Additionally, the physical vulnerability of coastal villages, like those in Kohpred, Paknamlaemsing, and Bangkachai is very alarming. Even if households could survive the devastation of shrimp ponds and fishing infrastructure, it is unrealistic to assume no lives would be lost from the inundation of the physical household without precautions being put into place. Additionally, nations like Thailand are often excluded from main stream media, making their plight invisible to many.
Geographic Vulnerability and Hazards
In January of 2017, Thailand experienced uncharacteristically high rainfall-- From January 5th to 12th, areas along the Gulf of Thailand received 27.6 inches of rain-- which resulted in flooding and loss of life (Jenner). Thailand is the quintessential environmental dichotomy of water—sometimes it has a deadly excess and sometimes it has a deadly depletion.
Thailand lies in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) which produces large amounts of rainfall from mid-May to mid-October and then a dry season from June to July (Apipattanavis). In addition to the flooding from rain, Thailand faces devastating SLR impacts. A World Bank study lists Thailand at number five among the twelve most vulnerable developing nations in terms of rising sea level rise (Dasgupta et. al, 29).
In 2015, the average American consumed 15.5 pounds of fish and shellfish (NIFA, 2018). “Over three fourths of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported from other countries,” with shrimp accounting for about 33% of these imports and is considered the most important seafood sector import (NIFA,2018). Thailand is the leading supplier of shrimp to the United States (NIFA, 2018).
Panpeng et al. states that based off their 2050 estimates for land indudation due to sea level rise, shrimp ponds will be heavily impacted (11). 65% of the study’s areas are classified as low-lying, which is the preferred location for shrimp ponds (Pangpeng et al. 11). Additionally, in 2008 the Food and Agriculture Administration of the United Nations reported that Thailand’s “penaeid prawn (Penaeus spp.) resources have been over-exploited [and that the] small-sized shrimps (Trachypenaeus spp. and Metapenaeopsis spp.) have also been over-exploited”. These two combined issues make Thailand’s shrimping industry especially vulnerable.
IPCC research supports that of Dasgupta et al., stating that “the Policy Analysis for the Greenhouse Effect 2002 (PAGE2002) integrated assessment model projects a mean loss of 2.2% of GDP [for Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam] by 2100 on an annual basis, if only the market impact (mainly related to agriculture and coastal zones) is considered (ADB, 2009)” (Wong et al. 1351). The 2.2% loss is significant in comparison to global average estimation of 0.6% per year by 2100 from market impact only (Wong et al. 1351).
Water Risks and Lack of Adaptive Capacity
The IPCC states that “coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion due to relative sea level rise (RSLR; very high confidence)” (Wong et. al 364). Thailand, specifically, has 2,624 km of continental coastline and population of 67.96 million (in 2015) (Yenpoeng).
Thailand’s water risks are the most prominent and foreboding. A nation primarily dependent on agricultural practices like rice and shrimp farming, Thailand “consumes 90.4% of its fresh water for agricultural purposes” (Apipattanavis). Apipattanavis compares this statistic to those of “upper-middle- and high-income countries” which are at “67.8 and 40.8% respectively”. Thailand devotes an extreme amount of freshwater resources to agriculture, which is alarming given the increasing population and economy (Apipattanavis).
Continued research and examination of vulnerability and impacts is crucial. South Eastern Asia is a vulnerable area, but once one narrows their focus, one can see the terrifying nature of individual impacts. Ever aspect of the lives of many citizens of the Laemsing District and coastal Thailand as a whole are under threat by climate change: their home, their financial stability, their culture through their food, and their livelihood. Failure to take immediate action to prevent land inundation and flooding will almost certainly result in loss of life.
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Dasgupta, Susmita; Laplante, Benoit; Meisner, Craig; Wheeler, David; Jianping Yan. The impact of sea level rise on developing countries : a comparative analysis (English). Policy, Research working paper ; no. WPS 4136. Washington, DC: World Bank. 2007.
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