BANGKOK, 23 January 2012
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Margareta Wahlström, met today with Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Kittiratt Na-Ranong, to discuss new government proposals on risk management and to urge Government support for business continuity plans following the costliest disaster in the country’s history.
The cost of the severe floods which hit Bangkok last month is estimated at $40 billion. More than 1,000 factories were shut down and 700,000 people were out of work. Over 800 people died in the floods.
Following her meeting with the Minister for Finance, Special Representative Wahlström who also heads the UN office for disaster risk reduction, UNISDR, said: “In each of the last two years 15% to 16% of Thailand’s population has been affected by disasters, mainly floods. I welcome the details of the government’s plan to mitigate future flooding, including a re-forestation programme and improved procedures around the release of water from hydro-electric dams.
“What we have clearly seen now is that disaster risk is following economic development pathways in Thailand as it is in many other parts of the world. I appreciate from my meetings with the Government, private business people and the Chamber of Commerce that the sheer scale of the economic losses provides an opportunity for a major re-think about the role of risk management and disaster risk reduction in preventing a recurrence of this type of disaster.
Special Representative Wahlström visited the ancient site of Ayutthaya and met with representatives of the Fine Arts Department who explained that flood defences were insufficient to protect the heritage site. She said: “It is important for future generations that the protection of heritage is included in the overall national water and flood management plan. Climate change and increased weather variability means that we can expect more floods and we need to be prepared.”