Research to Prevent Tsunami Risk in Southeast Asia

Natural disaster is not something that people want to experience, but the risks of natural disaster will forever exist throughout the years. A disastrous natural event to remember were the earthquake and tsunami disaster on December 26th, 2004 in Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia. More than 250,000 people were killed; making this disaster is considered as one of the biggest disaster recently. Consequently, Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) then initiated a study of tsunami risks in 2005 and implemented it for the government of Thailand as a part of risk management strategy towards natural disasters.

A strong earthquake that triggered a tsunami in Indian Ocean did not only leave us dead loss in humanity side, but also there was immense material damage in some ASEAN countries (along the coast of Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia), as well as South Asia (the Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka), and some countries in East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, etc.). The devastation occurred itself was a proof of failure in natural disaster risk management. Of course, natural disaster is not something that can be undone; however, preventing the impact of what will happen is a must. Conducting any means is necessary to develop dependable natural risk management to avoid significant loss and damage.

The study of tsunami risks for Thailand in 2005 by NGI was conducted in cooperation with Department of Mineral Resource and Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Program in East and Southeast Asia. Financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this project was concentrated on the efforts to reduce tsunami risk by focusing on the use of land and rehabilitation. The result of the project titled “Tsunami Risk Reduction Measures with Focus on Land use and Rehabilitation” was recommended mitigation measures include the following main elements:

1. Implementing new requirements to land-use planning and establishment of new building codes to reduce exposure to and/or consequences of future tsunamis.

2. Establishing escape routes that are well marked and easily accessible and which lead to areas or places that are safe from tsunami. Such safe areas may be artificially elevated land areas, or buildings and structures accessible to all. They should be possible to reach within a distance of about 500 m.

3. Constructing artificial walls or dikes to limit the impact and inundation level of tsunamis. This may have particular merit for Patong City and Ban Nam Khem fishing village, but locally also for other areas. Raising the ground level (vertical land reclamation) where buildings are to be constructed in the future. This may be a particularly attractive option for the further development of the Bang Niang tourist resort areas, and to some extent also in Nam Khem fishing village.

4. Ensuring that future buildings will not be damaged and that sleeping areas are at a level which is safe from tsunamis. This in consideration of to what extent measures 3 or 4 have been implemented to limit the tsunami inundation level.

Fortunately, according to the report, it was stated that in the course of the next 50-100 years, tsunami above three meters high are not expected. Therefore, in the meantime, the risk associated with tsunami is acceptable. Seeing that NGI conducted such research, the same project is now being carried out as risk management effort with special attention to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and the Philippines.