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Sussex researchers join international project to help 11 million Thai people

Researchers from the University of Sussex are joining an international effort to help protect Thailand’s vulnerable coastal communities from storms, floods and coastal erosion.

In Thailand, the problems of coastal erosion and flooding affect 17% of the country’s population - more than 11 million people.

The Thai Government’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) has calculated that each year, erosion causes the country to lose 30 square kilometres of coastal land. The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning have predicted that sea levels will rise by one metre in the next 40 to 100 years, which will impact at least 3,200 square kilometres at a potential cost of almost £70 million.

The Thai-coast Project, led by Professor Cherith Moses from Lancaster’s Edge Hill University and Dr Kanchana Nakhapakorn from Bangkok’s Mahidol University, aims to enhance the resilience and adaptation potential of coastal communities and provide advice to local authorities.

With funding of over £500,000 from the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) through the Newton Fund, the project will take a multidisciplinary approach to improve our understanding of the hydro-meteorological hazards, their physical, socioeconomic, health and wellbeing effects on Thailand’s coastal zones and the ways in which governance and institutional arrangements can mitigate their impacts.

At a recent launch of the project, the team met with local authorities and communities in two research study sites, Nakhon-Si-Thammarat and Krabi Provinces, to establish next steps forward.

Dr Yi Wang, Senior Lecturer in Climate Change, is Principal Investigator for the team at the University of Sussex.

He said: “We’re really pleased to be a part of this international, interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral team seeking to establish the links between climate change, coastal erosion and flooding, using our findings to boost resilience for communities along the coast. Our project partners include the cutting-edge flood risk assessment company Ambiental and the well-known US climate research centre, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).” Dr. Wang has established long-term collaboration with Ambiental and NCAR through his previous funded research.

Dr Wang will be working alongside colleagues Professor Paul Statham, Dr John Barlow from the School of Global Studies, as well as Professor Charles Watters from the School of Education and Social Work.

They join teams from the University of Brighton and the environmental risk assessment company Ambiental Technical Solutions, based at the Sussex Innovation Centre.

Thailand’s Mahidol University, Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University are also working on the project, alongside the Thailand Government’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and the US’s National Center for Atmospheric Research. 

Professor Moses said: “Thai-coast Project will benefit government agencies and policymakers, who need to plan for potential impacts caused by climate changes and develop resilient strategies to deal with their impacts on natural-social systems.

“It will provide a link with government agencies for business/industry interests in the coastal zone of Thailand in tourism, aquaculture and associated industry and business, to assess their needs and help improve their understanding of coastal resilience in their strategic investments and management. Most importantly it will enhance the resilience of coastal communities, such as those recently affected by Storm Pabuk, in Thailand to natural hazards posed by storm impact.”

This project is part of a wider international research effort to boost resilience to hazards across South East Asian countries through the Newton Fund under the NERC and ESRC. A total of 18 projects has been supported in partnerships with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as Thailand.

By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Tuesday, 12 November 2019