Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 45–58 | Cite as

Institutional traps and vulnerability to changes in climate and flood regimes in Thailand

  • Louis LebelEmail author
  • Jesse B. Manuta
  • Po Garden
Original Article


Vulnerabilities to floods in Thailand are changing as a result of many factors. Formal and informal institutions help shape exposure, sensitivity and capacities to respond of individuals, social groups and social-ecological systems. In this paper we draw on several case studies of flood events and flood-affected communities to first assess how current practices reflect various laws, procedures, programs and policies for managing floods and disasters and then explore the implications for dealing with additional challenges posed by climate change. Our analysis identifies several institutional traps which need to be overcome if vulnerability is to be reduced, namely capture of agendas by technical elites, single-level or centralized concentration of capacities, organizational fragmentation and overemphasis on reactive crisis management. Possible responses are to expand public participation in managing risks, build adaptive capacities at multiple levels and link them, integrate flood disaster management and climate change adaptation into development planning, prioritize risk reduction for socially vulnerable groups and strengthen links between knowledge and practice. Responses like these could help reduce vulnerabilities under current climate and flood regimes, while also improving capacities to handle the future which every way that unfolds.


Risk Vulnerability Institutional traps Climate change Floods Disaster management Thailand 



The Packard Foundation through the START International Secretariat is thanked for their support to Jesse Manuta. The Asia–Pacific Network for Global Environmental Change Research, START and the Challenge Program for Water and Food (PN50 funded by Echel Eau and International Fund for Agriculture Development) provided support to Po Garden and Louis Lebel. The paper was finalized with support from the Twin2Go Project funded by the European Commission FP7. The paper is a contribution to the IHDP Earth System Governance Project and Mekong Program on Water, Environment and Resilience. We thank Rajesh Daniel, Lilibeth Acosta-Michlik, and two anonymous reviewers for constructive feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unit for Social and Environmental Research, Faculty of Social SciencesChiang Mai UniversityChiang MaiThailand
  2. 2.School of Arts and SciencesAteneo de Davao UniversityDavao CityThe Philippines
  3. 3.InternewsChiang MaiThailand

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