CHIANG RAI – The CCRLC in Chiang Rai and Songkhla in the South, have joined global efforts to tackle the threat of climate change, the two “Climate Change Resilience Learning Centres” set up in the provinces aim to prepare local residents for the potential repercussions of natural and man-made disasters.
“These centres will monitor natural disasters across the provinces. Once the centres have detected potential signs of natural disasters like flash floods and severe drought, people will be alerted immediately so they can prepare,” Chiang Rai municipality permanent secretary Suranit Ong-la said.
In past decades, Chiang Rai has faced a number of natural disasters including out-of-season rainfall, flash floods, prolonged drought and haze – caused by fires that farmers set to clear land – one of the main problems for people in the North.
Not only are natural disasters a major threat for people, the rapid expansion of city infrastructure and the growing suburban population are putting pressure on local authorities. The disposal of rising quantities of household waste effectively is another problem in the area.
“All existing natural waterways and canals have been covered up by roads and modern buildings. There is no way for floodwater to escape,” Suranit said.
To handle these problems, Chiang Rai municipality has devised a number of strategies that involve partnering with the relevant sectors to improve the city management’s response capabilities.
Strategies are being developed to deal with the impact of climate change in areas of agricultural capacity, while sustainable and climate-resilient tourism projects are being promoted. Chiang Rai is also promoting itself as a “liveable city” – one that champions efforts to reduce global warming.
“City planning can be a key tool in driving these strategies,” Suranit said.
Under such initiatives, the restoration of urban lakes and rivers has been implemented to prevent flash floods from inundating the city during the wet season. The same lakes and rivers can also be adapted to store fresh water during drought.
The Climate Change Resilience Centre is also an initiative developed as part of Chiang Rai’s efforts to deal with the impact of global warming. Both centres will assist locals by issuing warnings of imminent natural disasters, while also providing knowledge about preparing for various crises. Farmers, for instance, could be provided with agricultural knowledge on planting crops to help reduce the impact of climate change on their livelihoods. In times of crisis, the centres would also double as shelters with capacity to receive up to 300 people each.
“Handling climate change is not the responsibility of just one person, all sectors must help deal with the shocks and stresses of natural disaster,” Suranit said.
She was speaking at a press conference last week organised by the Rockefeller Foundation to launch “The 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge Programme”. The programme aims to enable 100 cities around the world to better cope with the impact of natural and manmade disasters.
The 100 cities will be selected by the foundation to receive technical support and recourses for the development and implementation of “urban resilience” strategies.
A business centre and tourist destination like the southern city of Hat Yai, which is prone to flash floods, is already preparing for climate change.
Hundreds of closed-circuit cameras have been installed around the city to monitor real-time flooding. The system will enable authorities to warn local residents and businesses of a possible flood threat, said Somporn Siriporananon, chairman of the Songkhla Chamber of Commerce.
Empowering communities to be prepared for disasters by training them to survey and analyse problems related to disasters will also assist local people by helping to protect their assets and ensuring their safety. – Pongphon Sarnsamak