by Li Li
BANGKOK, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- When the floodwater came, it conquered many cities in Thailand without the slightest effort. But for many experts, the flood was not just a natural disaster, but also a self-inflicted one.
On occasion of his 84th birthday, Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej called for national unity and stability to tackle with the flooding situation that still harasses his people. He also recommended those involved in flood control to take his ideas of how to manage water.
In a weekly radio talk show on Saturday, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra promised the government will heed the King's advice.
The flood, labeled as the "worst" in decades in Thailand as it claimed 689 lives over the past four months, has stricken a loud and clear wake-up call for Thai cities built with vulnerable and outdated water management system.
Ayutthaya, the historical Thai capital and one of the most welcomed tourist destinations in central Thailand, is just the case. With a grand ceremony pending on Friday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city's inscription on the World Heritage List by UNESCO, Ayutthaya has recently tried hard to leave an good impression on foreign tourists who were shunned away by the flood. But some experts start to rethink the city's history of combating floods, hoping to learn lessons from the ancestors and plan a better future for their children.
Supoj Prommanoj, director of Office of Archaeology, Fine Arts Department of Cultural Ministry said during a recent interview there were 16 canals in Ayutthaya, but now only two remain.
"Back to hundreds of years ago, people commuted from place to place by boats. But as modernization knocked on the door, we commuted by cars, consequently, we had to make roads and get rid of canals. But no body could predict a catastrophe like this year' s flood would happen. Once it did, it would be too late," said Supoj.
Ayutthaya, often referred to as the Ayutthaya kingdom or Siam, was founded in 1350 by King U Thong and collapsed after being invaded and partly destroyed by the Burmese army 400 years later. As an island city surrounded by Chao Praya River, Lopburi River and Pasak River, Ayutthaya has been extremely vulnerable against floods.
Our ancestors seemed to live more peacefully with nature than us, no matter to embrace its good side or to confront its bad side, said Supoj. "When the flood came, they can handle it very well without panic. Even if the thing really got out of control, they just found temporary shelters on higher grounds and grew food themselves. But today, we cannot do that because we are not that self-sufficient," he said.
Supoj took an ancient building which is now a museum as an example."The museum is surrounded by floodwater, but the most strange and amazing thing is, although no water-prevention measure is taken, the water just cannot get in it. We are still trying to figure the thing out. But we can see from this is that our ancestors knew exactly how to prevent flood and live harmoniously with it."
Zoran Vojinovic, water management specialist from UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands also suggested that water management needs to be carried out at both micro and macro level in Ayutthaya.
According to Vojinovic, the flow capacity of the waterways in Ayutthaya is approximately 1,500 cubic meters per second. As the measured inflow on Oct.4, 2011 was 3,300 cubic meters per second, flooding occurred.
"A combination of both structural and non-structural solutions needs to be considered; one without the other will not be sufficient," he said as he joined a team of international experts and Thai specialists in a field research mission in the city last week.
The mission, initiated on the request of Thai government and is aimed at post-flood recovery, included damage assessment, emergency stabilization, restoration and long-term mitigation planning.
The entire historic island of Ayutthaya and its surrounding areas were submerged by floods for over a month. More than 100 historic monuments in and around Ayutthaya have been affected by the floods, according to the Archeology, Fine Arts Department.