Adapting to flooding and preserving Thai cultural heritage & landscape

May 19, 2017

Some reflections on Ayutthaya, Thailand and flooding

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anna Catalani @ 7:48 am

Flooding is a natural, major hazard. During the past decades, all around the world, we have witnessed some of the most severe flooding. These flooding have had a really damaging impact on local communities, natural landscape and cultural heritage and, as a consequence, also on the local tourism industry. The case of the heritage site in Ayutthaya, Thailand offers some interesting reflections, which we have presented at the international conference on Tourism and Creative Industries: Trend and Challenges in Opatija, Croatia on 4-6 May 2017. The paper (‘Heritage at risk of flooding, tourism and resilient communities: The case of Ayutthaya, Thailand’) was based on the initial findings of a collaborative research project supported by the British Academy and the Thailand Research Fund under the Newton Advanced Fellowship.

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Throughout our paper we acknowledged  the importance of culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development and the imperative to protect heritage sites, like Ayutthaya, from natural disasters that can have a detrimental impact on the landscapes, communities and wellbeing of the whole area. Ayutthaya, like other areas and sites in Thailand, had been affected by the big long stay flooding in 2011. This triggered a number of collaborations (amongst local communities and heritage professionals), between public and private sectors, at national and international levels, targeted to a planned protection of Ayutthaya from flooding.

Some of the recommendations highlighted in the paper were that the existing hydraulic system of Ayutthaya should be integrated into land use planning. Mutual understanding, knowledge and clear communication before, during, and after flood should be provided to all communities. Flood risk planning and disaster management, indeed, have become crucial approaches to protect and preserve cultural heritage as a key economical asset and symbol of cultural pride.

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A targeted flooding adaptation strategy not only can contribute to the effective preservation of cultural heritage but it ca also be beneficial to tourism sector, which has been a main contribution to the GDP of Thailand over a few decades.

Dr Witiya Pittungnapoo

January 24, 2017

Some background information

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anna Catalani @ 11:10 am

Flooding adaptation and strategy for cultural heritage and landscape preservation: Challenges for the Lower Northern Region of Thailand is a two year project (2016-18) carried out by Naresuan University, Thailand and the University of Lincoln, United Kingdom. The project has been funded by the British Academy and the Newton Research fund and it is a cross-disciplinary study looking at flooding adaptation strategies for the safeguard of cultural and natural heritage sites in Thailand. This project aims to examine flooding adaptation to preserve water-based cultural landscapes, particularly in the traditional settlements of Thailand. Water-based settlements and the way of living has been a unique cultural feature of Thailand, because people have
learned how to live in harmony with water.

Many water-based settlements have been intruded by rampant urbanisation, resulting in a fast decline of unique waterbased landscapes. Climate change has recently made water-based communities more at risk due to uncertain flooding. Flooding protection walls have been the most immediate and effective ways to protect communities from flooding; however there has been little research conducted in the fields of cultural landscape and heritage. Without flooding adaptation, it would be impossible to preserve both water-based tangible and intangible heritage; therefore, this area needs proper attention.

This study intends to do exactly this  by addressing the following questions:

1) What is the relationship between climate change and heritage in Thailand ?

2) What are the current flooding adaptation strategies in place that allow the preservation of water-based cultural landscapes, particularly in the traditional settlements of Thailand?

3) How is flooding affecting the relationship between local heritage sites and local communities in Thailand?

4) What lessons can be learnt by Thai case studies and to what extent these could be applied to the UK?

Through this project we aim to develop new strategies for flooding adaptation but also to explore the cultural effects that flooding has had and is having on local heritage sites and local communities.




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