BANGKOK – Beneath a park in Bangkok lies the latest tool to tackle the recurring floods that unleash chaos in the Thai capital and that could worsen in the coming years owing to the effects of climate change.
At a depth of 15 meters (49.2 feet), Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park has three tanks the size of an Olympic swimming pool to store excess water during heavy monsoon rains. With sloped gardens and an artificial wetland, the ground surface ensures the water flows down into the underground reservoirs.
Kotchakorn Voraakhom, the architect of the project, which has received much international recognition – including the World Landscape Architecture award – told EFE that floods such as the deadly ones in 2011 served as a warning about the effect of climate change.
“The park is designed as a way to show the people and the city how to face the future challenge,” Kotchakorn said.
Just 15 minutes of heavy rainfall during the monsoon season – between June and October – is enough to flood several major streets of the metropolis, which is slowly sinking due to excessive construction.
The park, inaugurated over a year ago and occupying an area of 4.45 hectares, is just a “drop in the ocean” when it comes to solving the problem facing the capital city, home to more than 10 million people.
By 2050, Bangkok could disappear underwater, according to projections about the rise in sea levels, hence the idea of a park as an effort to mitigate the effects of climate change, explained the architect.
Kotchakorn, who in May was invited to tour several universities in the United States, has started a movement in Thailand focusing on green infrastructure as opposed to the concrete jungle that Bangkok has become.
By the end of the year, her architecture firm plans to open a new park in northern Bangkok three times larger than the pilot one, built under the same concept of sustainability.
The city, sometimes known as the “Venice of the East,” has found some of its traditional waterways and canals buried by a whirlwind of urbanization, which over time has only worsened the flooding.
At the end of 2011, heavy rainfall coupled with lack of coordination between local authorities led to Thailand’s worst flood in more than half a century.
More than 800 people lost their lives, scores of them in the capital, and the country’s economy was severely affected as several industrial parks came to a halt and one of Bangkok’s airports was temporarily closed.
A study published in 2015 by Kasetsart University’s Parichart Promchote indicated the possibility of frequent floods with a similar or even greater intensity than the one in 2011 occurring in the future.
Kotchakorn said they wanted the people to understand that they could not avoid the floods, but could learn to live with them.
Her projects include several interesting mechanisms, such as a bicycle to help filter water stored in the tank, in line with the sustainability project.
Not a single drop of water is wasted, she claimed.