initial response of dam managers to the intense rainfall of early 2011 was to store the water in the depleted reservoirs, building capacity and preventing early flooding. But when major rains unexpectedly continued, the reservoirs filled, and the dams had to release the water, resulting in flows too large for the downstream drainage canals and levees. This overflow was exacerbated by the many decades of deforestation that have taken place in northern Thailand, which allowed a greatly increased runoff from the rains and helped to overwhelm the downstream flood defenses.
The Thai government suffered significant criticism for what many saw as its mismanagement of the situation. The government was criticized for its forecasts that underestimated the scale of the flooding, for its management of the upstream dams that exacerbated downstream flooding, and for poor communications. Once the flood waters began to overwhelm the existing flood defenses, the government launched many emergency responses, including evacuations, the placing of sandbags, and the diversion of water from some channels to others. In one case the government placed hundreds of anchored boats in one river so that their propellers could help push water toward a second river. As the damages increased, many of these responses were criticized as inadequate. In addition, resistance appeared in some localities where flooding had increased due to barriers designed to protect neighboring communities. Some people ripped down the sandbags that they saw as unfairly diverting flood waters to their areas.
The floods also caused significant disruption to regional and global supply chains. Manufacturing parks located near Bangkok supply parts for the worldwide automobile and electronics industries. One-third of the world’s hard drives and high percentages of other key computer components are built there (Connor, 2012). Many of these Thai manufacturing areas were covered by up to 3 meters of water, causing parts shortages worldwide. Even the computer firms located elsewhere in Thailand that escaped the flooding found they could not get critical parts. Production is not expected to fully recover until 2013 (Mearian, 2011). In the meantime, component prices rose as suppliers attempted to stockpile what was available and manufacturers found they could not get the parts they needed. The flooding of automotive parts production facilities forced Honda and Toyota to slow production lines in many countries (Fuller, 2011).
Other Global System Effects
Climate events might also put stress on global health systems in various ways, most of them hard to predict. As discussed in the next chapter, climate change is expected to alter the ranges of disease vectors or pathogens in ways that expose large human populations to diseases to which they have not been previously exposed. This could lead to a rapidly increasing