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Digital insights build smarter flood response in Bangkok

The Global Future Cities Programme in South East Asia is helping the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to enhance the city’s ability to prepare and respond to flooding caused by high-intensity rainfall and identify mitigation solutions. BMA is responsible for urban resilience and flood management in Thailand’s capital.

The challenge

The challenge

Bangkok’s geographical location in the lower Chao Phraya River Delta is both a strength and a weakness. While the megacity profits from fertile farmland and strategic trade routes, the river basin is vulnerable to annual flooding.

In recent decades, rapid urbanisation has exacerbated the impact of flooding to the local economy by interfering with natural water courses and stormwater drainage systems. Green spaces, which act as a retention area during flooding, have greatly decreased. The city recognises the need for more water retention areas; however, development is currently not adequately guided by flood risk considerations. The intense rainfall and subsequent flooding contribute to health and other social issues, transport and traffic disruption, personal and commercial property damage and other economic losses. Severe flooding in 2011 affected over 13 million people, causing more than 800 deaths and nearly $50bn in damage.

Unfortunately climate change is likely to increase flood risk due to higher intensity rainfall. Sea level rise will also increase the risk of tidal, riverine and stormwater flooding due to the interactions between these three systems.

The transformation

The transformation

The Bangkok Decision Support System (DSS) for Flood Management is one of three interventions in the city being carried out under the Global Future Cities Programme, which was set up by the UK Government’s Prosperity Fund to provide technical assistance to support sustainable urban development.

The DSS aims to increase BMA’s ability to undertake short, medium and long-term planning for flood risk management and optimise flood mitigation strategies and related investments. The project team are developing a flood model within a designated pilot study area that can support operational decision making in near real-time and can then be used to identify and evaluate stormwater retention opportunities.

BMA’s existing rainfall forecasting system is also being enhanced by calibrating their existing rainfall radar system and for the first time providing accurate estimates and forecasts of rainfall across the entire city. This will then be integrated with insights from the flood model, with machine learning providing near real-time flood predictions through Moata, our award-winning technology platform, to create a digital twin of the study area. BMA will gain the power to ‘see the unseen’, anticipating where and when flooding will happen, so they can prepare in advance and deploy their team where they’re needed most in a targeted response.

The benefits

The benefits

The project will enable BMA to make better informed and timely decisions on flood management and mitigation measures, helping Bangkok’s citizens to become more resilient and reducing the socio-economic and environmental damage caused by localised flooding events.

In the longer term the DSS could be scaled up to provide timely flood warnings directly to local communities across Bangkok. The DSS is a pilot project for a wider Integrated Data Hub for BMA, which aims to apply data science techniques to inform decision making in multiple contexts in the city. The system has been designed in a modular way to connect additional data feeds and analytics so it can be expanded to analyse wider impacts, such as how flooding impacts on traffic.

Ultimately, the interventions will contribute to more sustainable urban environments that enhance inclusive economic growth, reduce poverty and gender inequality, increase mobility, and remain safe and resilient against climate threats.

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