Climate change and urban health vulnerability

Climate change and urban health vulnerability

There is increasing awareness of the impacts of climate change on the health of urban residents. Although Thailand has seen relatively low rates of urbanisation compared to its ASEAN counterparts, cities across the country are growing. This study examines the climate change and urban health vulnerability of suburban Pralab, Khon Kaen City, in the northeast of Thailand. Empirical data is drawn from a field study using focus groups and in-depth interviews, and statistics recorded by local government agencies, as well as previous recent research on the study site.

This study found that the urbanisation of Khon Kaen has led to profound physical and socio-economic changes in Pralab. Infrastructure development, such as roads, often acts as dykes, preventing or slowing water drainage, leading to longer periods of flooding. The effect of the floods on the health of the residents is intensified by wastewater discharged from the city drainage system into the suburban area of Pralab. The study examines the increased health vulnerability of suburban areas, which can be attributed to urban growth and climate change, and puts forwards recommendations to deal with the impacts of increasing climate variability.

Pralab residents and institutions are adopting several strategies to cope with the impacts of climate change, however improvements are needed. These include:
  • improvements in waste management, both during and after floods; in particular mobile latrines must be adequately provided during floods
  • better cooperation between local governments in managing disasters; preparedness plans must be put in place before future events, including planning for relief facilities
  • in respect to public health, a preliminary database and inventory of vulnerable groups must be prepared, and training in handling disasters, in the form of both knowledge and practice, must be provided
  • community capacity building to cope with disasters, for example training for village health volunteers in managing disasters, must be supported
  • finally, infrastructure, both social and physical, must be improved. This includes improvement of drainage systems, installation of filtration systems, enforcement of law in land management and the fostering of social networks
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