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My friend Henk Landkroon, from Groningen in the Netherlands, has an excellent photoblog: STORMBLAST1953

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


At the moment much of Thailand is in the grip of destructive floods. There is some concern that within the next few days much of Bangkok could be adversely affected by rising water. Fortunately, the area where I live (northeast Thailand) has been mostly spared this year, although the rainy season is far from over.

Why are the floods so awful recently? Thailand has invested a great deal in flood mitigation measures including some massive flood control dams to protect the entire country and huge drainage tunnels and pumps to protect Bangkok. Still, this has been one of the worst years for flooding in history.

I think that small, incremental changes in the way people use land has been a large contributing factor. Deforestation and the conversion of land to single crop plantations means that rain runs off faster than ever before. Development has blocked drainage paths as has the failure to maintain human-built alternatives such as canals and storm drains.

In the Google Earth screenshot above you can see the middle and south forks of the Lam Takhong river which flow from west to east. The area outlined in red is a wetland through which massive amounts of water flows. For many years this wetland has been a productive agricultural area. The people who farmed it took advantage of the natural flow of water and altered the landscape only slightly in order to grow coconuts, betel nuts, bananas, pandanus, citrus and other fruits. This entire area was a planation which worked in harmony with natural processes.

Homeland 2 on the map is where I live.

This photograph was taken in 2009 and shows coconut palms growing beside a ditch dug into the wet soil. You can also see banana trees, pandanus (lower right) and other productive plants. The water flowing through the plantation kept the plants irrigated and brought nutrients from up stream.

Another photo from 2009. The slender plans are betel nut trees. I estimate that both the coconut and betel nut palms are 30-40 years old.

In 2009 a bulder started to clear a huge area of the wetland in order to construct a massive housing project. The advertising material for the project gave the impression that residents would be living on the edge of the jungle with beautiful views of rice fields. Unfortunately, the filling of the wetland and construction of the homes almost completely blocked the natural flow of water. This housing project, Homeland 3, is located in the middle of the area outlined in red in the Google Earth shot above.

Here you can see the result. Almost all of the vegetation has died and the rest is in horrible shape.

Because the water no longer flows through the wetland much of it is diverted to the main channel of the south fork of the Lam Takhong River. During heavy rains the channel is insufficient so the river overflows. The home above is about 200 meters from the river and is shown under about two meters of water. The photo was taken October 20, 2010.

 This family is camped out on a small bridge over an irrigation canal. Why? Because their home, also near the river, is under about two meters of water.

To see the area in Google Maps, click on the Ban Mai, Mueang Nakhon Ratchasima location link below.


  1. I am surprised there are no comments here. Human populations have long been exploding beyond the Earths ability to sustain them. This is a development for the upwardly mobile. The poor and the environment will have to deal with the inconvenience. In America they have built housing tracts over the best agricultural land there was. The environmental costs are huge but it is clear that free market profits MUST take priority. All the thousands of specie extinctions everywhere so our own can reshape the world for the pleasure of the powerful spelling doom for all just down the road. Much sooner than most people know.

  2. PS: Thank you Mike for the fine job you've done illustrating a point I have echoed hundreds of times on different blogs. Keep up the good work but be careful. Showing your home's location might not be the wisest thing to do with all the corrupt crazies running around out there. Peace {:o(

  3. Probably no comments because no one really knows about or reads this blog. It's just a hobby for me. A bit of a diary and a compendium of my thoughts about living and traveling in Thailand.