Thailand has been told it needs to build a massive sea wall to prevent massive damage from land subsidence and rising sea waters.
The Thai capital, Bangkok, and nearby provinces face losses of billions of dollars unless the government acts to protect the area from rising sea waters caused by climate change and subsiding land.
Bangkok, built over 200 years ago on the Chao Phraya River delta, is one of several major cities in Asia that international conservation groups say are under threat from climate change and land subsidence. Among the others are Dhaka, Manila, Jakarta, Calcutta, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City and Shanghai.
Cor Dijkgvaaf is a professor and director at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development studies in Rotterdam. He says Thailand needs to build a 100 kilometer seawall along the Gulf of Thailand to keep reduce the risk of massive floods.
"You calculate first how much it costs if your industrial production comes to a standstill, you cannot reach your house any more, your agricultural land is destroyed by the salt water. I can assure you that a solution like this is cheaper," said Cor Dijkgvaaf.
Climate and development experts say many of the endangered cities face several problems. First, they sit on low lying, swampy land, surrounded by rivers, that is naturally prone to floods. Increased urbanization has contributed to land subsidence, which is worsened by poor planning, which has blocked drainage ways. And finally, as the global climate warms, sea levels rise, creeping higher into cities.
Dijkgvaaf says Indonesia's main island of Java also is vulnerable to rising sea levels.
"Indonesia will be seriously affected by sea water levels rising, particularly all of the big towns around the Java Sea and other smaller cities. These are all cities between one and 10 million inhabitants. It's lowland; Jakarta is like Bangkok - sinking," he said.
He says in Vietnam, the southern business capital of Ho Chi Minh City, near the Mekong Delta, faces more severe floods.
Anond Sridvongs, a marine scientist at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University and an author on climate change, says says it appears the Thai government lacks the will to address rising sea levels.
"At the moment most of the policy at almost every level in Thailand doesn't take into consideration climate change at all. They're not aware that even right now we have extreme events but many of the design or plans are based on the assumption that everything is constant," he said.
The researchers' comments come just over a month after an international summit in Copenhagen on climate change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) had called on all nations to sign the agreement.