Garbage in canals worsens flooding in Bangkok

PHOTO: Garbage in waterways increases flooding. (via Thai PBS video screenshot)

With heavy rainfall creating flooding around Thailand, officials say it’s not just the massive water pelting down that’s to blame for the Bangkok floods. Another culprit plays a significant role in the flooding: dumped garbage. While the capital city needs improvements to the drainage systems, an epidemic of junk bottlenecking the water flow is also to blame.

The Chao Phraya River, running through Bangkok has become inundated with trash dumped by people. Old mattresses and furniture along with other common household items no longer wanted have been ditched in Bangkok canals. They can block the flow of water into the Chao Phraya River.

It’s not a small amount of trash either. About five to ten tonnes of dumped garbage is pulled from the canals and riverways in Bangkok every day. According to the Department of Drainage and Sewerage under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the main water pumping station at Phra Khanong and the Rama IX Water Tunnel that help control flooding are inundated with garbage. Those two access points are the last chance to fish this junk from the waters before it dumps into the river.

For the eastern part of Bangkok, the water flow to canals is regulated by four main water pumping stations and gates. These stations serve as gatekeepers to strain what waste ends up spilling into the main riverways in Bangkok. Pulling oversized garbage and an abundance of general waste has been a consistent problem but has been exacerbated by the recent rainstorms and heavy flow of water pushing through these channels.

This creates a vicious cycle of heavy rains bringing floods that push more garbage into the drainage systems that then back up and create more flooding.

The trash isn’t all sofas and beds and huge objects. The majority is plastic waste, bottles, styrofoam packaging, and the ever-present plastic bags that inundate Thailand. The amount of junk being fished out of these canals has been falling over the past five years, but it is still a pervasive problem.

The BMA shows that 22,761 tonnes of trash, not including green waste like tree trimmings and weeds, was dredged from the waterways in the 2022 fiscal year that ended yesterday. This is a bit less than last year, with 24,281 tonnes, and significantly less than pre-pandemic times with nearly 50,000 tonnes in 2018 and 46,507 tonnes in 2019 collected. But still, in a time of flooding, the clogs due to trash in the waterways present major problems for Bangkok.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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