Thai rice region under climate threat

Part of Thailand’s main rice growing region is under severe economic and environmental threat from climate change which must be addressed by world leaders at a UN summit, Greenpeace said Monday.

A study by the activist group revealed the dangers faced by the Bangpakong River Basin, which supports around 1.25 million people who rely heavily on the region’s fertile soils for crops, especially rice, fruit and fishing.

The study was released days before Bangkok holds another major meeting on climate change.

The 7,900 square-kilometre (3050 square mile) area in eastern Thailand is “one of the most productive river basins the world” and a prominent source of jasmine rice, Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaign manager Tara Buakamsri said.

But the basin, which empties into the Gulf of Thailand, “is threatened with severe economic and environmental impacts due to flooding, drought, saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion caused by climate change”, Greenpeace said.

“Local rural communities stand to suffer most from climate change impacts,” said Ply Pirom, a campaigner for the group, adding that the “worst impacts are yet to come”.

Greenpeace said Southeast Asia as a whole was “among the most vulnerable and least prepared to cope with the impacts of climate change” and called on heads of state converging in New York this week “to expedite climate action”.

World leaders at the summit should make 140 billion US dollars available annually to help those who are most vulnerable across the world, the group said.

Opened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Monday, the pivotal summit is part of the two-year effort by climate negotiators to remake global climate rules, with success far from assured.

They are working towards a make-or-break summit in Copenhagen this December, which is expected to ink new targets for global emissions beyond 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires.

From September 28, Bangkok will hold the penultimate negotiating session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change before the Copenhagen meeting.

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