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Living with Floods: Moving Towards Resilient Local-Level Adaptation in Central Thailand

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Through the bifocal-conceptual lens of political ecology and pragmatism, this thesis aims at capturing qualitatively the complexity of flood hazard and the expansion of the range of adaptation choice in Thailand. By investigating the perception of risk and the processes of adaptation within the local Thai context, it presents findings from fieldwork conducted in three communities (suburban, desakota and rural) in Central Thailand.

This research helps define pathways to an expanded range of choice for flood management in Thailand. Empirical data suggest that although the residents and local officials view flooding as an unwelcome normal occurrence, changes in people’s lifestyles in a modern society have altered how they perceive flooding. Depending on the areas, elements such as political conflicts and climate change have, in addition, weakened local flood response mechanisms. In its attempts to deal effectively with flooding, even after the 2011 Mega- Flood, the government has been inclined towards resorting to technological fixes and has been favouring policies meant to generate wealth for offsetting losses. Larger social, economic, political, historical, and cultural aspects have mostly been ignored. Participants, however, incorporate these elements into their responses and tend to perceive a wide array of choices. These findings suggest that amid the changing landscape, the locals are not passive. They have been using numerous strategies to help them adapt to flood events. However, several socio-cultural factors hinder them from expressing their views and force them to adopt limited strategies.

To facilitate adaptation, we need to understand the material and discursive elements that shape local flood experiences. This can only be done through public engagement. Indeed, by talking to the participants, it became apparent that in order to expand the range of adaptation choice and to strengthen local resilience, it is important to (i) encourage preparedness and risk awareness; (ii) promote traditional knowledge; (iii) highlight the role of religion; and (iv) strengthen the role of local government.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date2016

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