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Will climate change push Thailand to move its capital Bangkok?

Thailand may have to consider relocating its capital Bangkok because of rising sea levels, a senior official in the country’s climate change office said on Wednesday.

Projections consistently show that low-lying Bangkok risks being inundated by the ocean before the end of the century.

Much of the bustling capital already battles flooding during the rainy season.

Pavich Kesavawong, deputy director general of the government’s department of climate change and environment, warned that the city might not be able to adapt with the world on its current warming pathway.

“I think we are beyond the 1.5 [degrees Celsius] already,” he said, referring to the increase in global temperatures from pre-industrial levels.

“Now we have to come back and think about adaptation.”

“I imagine Bangkok will be underwater already, if we stay in our [current] circumstance.”

Bangkok’s city government is exploring measures that include building dykes, along the lines of those used in the Netherlands, he said.

But “we’ve been thinking about moving”, Pavich said, noting that the discussions were still hypothetical and the issue was “very complex”.

“Personally I think it’s a good choice, so we can separate the capital, the government areas, and business areas,” he said.

“Bangkok [would] still be the government capital, but move the business.”

While a move is still a long way from being adopted as policy, it would not be unprecedented in the region.

Indonesia will inaugurate this year its new capital Nusantara, which will replace sinking and polluted Jakarta as the country’s political centre.

The mammoth move has been controversial and extremely expensive, with an estimated price tag of US$32 billion-US$35 billion.

Thailand is suffering the effects of climate change