Thailand’s rice-bowl under severe threat from climate change

Greenpeace calls on world leaders to help

Press release - September 21, 2009
Greenpeace today called upon world leaders gathered in New York for a United Nations summit on climate change to set aside short sighted political self interest and to expedite climate action by making available 140 billion USD annually, to enable the very survival of those who are most vulnerable and least prepared to cope with climate change.

Asian Elephants (chang in Thai) take an early monring dip in a small creek outside Khao Yai National Park, 200 kilometers North of Bangkok, before setting off on the second leg of the Greenpeace-led Chang(e) Caravan.

As part of its ongoing Chang(e) Caravan Greenpeace has initiated a study on climate change impacts identification and vulnerability assessment of communities in the Thailand's Bangpakong river basin and is conducting a forum with farmers today as part of the research (1).  The study aims to assess the current and future vulnerability of communities to the impacts of climate change, as well as the adaptive capacity of communities, with the end view of incorporating appropriate adaptation strategies into the local government's Bangpakong Watershed Development Plan.

According to the evidence gathered so far, the Bangpakong River Basin, which empties into the Gulf of Thailand and is one of the earliest agricultural sites in Southeast Asia, is threatened with severe economic and environmental impacts due to flooding, drought, saltwater intrusion, and coastal erosion caused by climate change.

"Local rural communities stand to suffer most from climate change impacts.  They have already suffered from unequal patterns of industrial development and climate change will put further pressure on their current and future livelihoods. The latest climate modeling scenarios project that the worst impacts are yet to come.  We need to urgently assess the situation of these vulnerable communities so that solutions can be immediately implemented," said Ply Pirom, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxic Campaigner.

US President Obama will address the UN Heads of State for the first time in his presidency in what is expected to be the largest such gathering in history, convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and may be a crucial milestone on the way to a fair, ambitious and binding climate agreement in Copenhagen in December.

"World leaders must listen to the voices of those already suffering the impacts of dangerous climate impacts in order to understand the imperative for acting. The meeting in New York is too great an opportunity to be squandered and Greenpeace is calling upon ASEAN leaders, especially Indonesian President Yudhoyono, to offer both impetus and solutions to break the current deadlock and together with President Obama take the necessary action to pull the world back from the brink of climate chaos," said Tara Buakamsri, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaign Manager.

Southeast Asia is among the most vulnerable and least prepared to cope with the impacts of climate change. The Chang(e) Caravan aims to gather support in its call for world leaders, particularly United States President Obama, to enact an ambitious, fair and binding climate deal this December in Copenhagen, and to make available necessary funds to protect Southeast Asia's natural forests, to ensure the future of the region, its biodiversity and its people.

Other contacts: For media visits and queries GPI : Cindy Baxter: +64 21 772 661 GPSEA: Lea Guerrero: +66 8 5070 5552 USA : Stephanie Tunmore : +1 202 286 4824

VVPR info: Tara Buakamsri, Campaigns Manager of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Tel 089-476-9977 Ply Pirom, Toxic Campaigner, Tel 081-658-9432 Wiriya Kingwatcharapong, Tel 089-487-0678

Notes: (1) The farmer’s forum was held at the Agriculture and Technology College in Chacheongsao’s Khao Hin Sorn district as part of Greenpeace’s Chang(e) Caravan, which set-off on 12 September in Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratachasima province 250 km north of Bangkok. The 15-day trek with five Asian Elephants rehabilitated from the Bangkok streets by the Thai Elephant Research and Conservation Fund (TERF), has been a focus for people from all ages and backgrounds to tell the story of climate change impacts on communities, as it travels through Thailand’s Central Plains. The Bangpakong River Basin supports a population of around 1.25 million people who rely heavily on the region’s fertile soils for rice, other crops, fruit and rich fishing. In an earlier activity in Nakhon Nayok province, the Greenpeace Chang(e) Caravan conducted discussions with representatives from the eco-tourism sector. On September 24, the Chang(e) Caravan will conduct similar forums focusing on fisheries and coastal erosion in Bangpakong district. The Caravan is traveling with five Asian Elephants rehabilitated by the Thai Elephant Research and Conservation Fund (TERF). It is scheduled to reach the outskirts of the Bangkok on September 27, a day before the start of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) intercessional meeting in the capital. CHANG(E) CARAVAN, UP NEXT: 26-27 September The Caravan will conclude with a two day program at Ancient Siam on the outskirts of the Bangkok on September 27, a day before the start of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) intercessional meeting.