Urban Transformations Across Borders: The Interwoven Influence of Regionalisation, Urbanisation and Climate Change in the Mekong Region

  • Richard Friend
  • Pakamas Thinphanga


This chapter focuses on the Mekong region, a part of the world that is going through one of the most dramatic periods of urbanisation and economic integration, while also being highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. Drawing on climate vulnerability assessments conducted in cities in Thailand and Vietnam under a regional programme, the chapter illustrates the significance of approaching disaster risk and climate change through the combination of systems and people-oriented approaches, rather than territorial approaches for understanding the regional and trans-boundary dimensions of climate vulnerability and disaster risk. The chapter considers the ways in which urbanisation creates new patterns of vulnerability and risk that go beyond spatial impacts of specific events. In addition to the agglomeration of assets and resources in specific physical locations, contemporary urbanization depends on complex systems of physical infrastructure and technology for generating services around water, food, energy, transport, and communications. Increasingly these urban systems networked and interlinked, increasingly at regional scales. The ways in which urban people interact with systems to derive benefits are significant factors in shaping both wellbeing and vulnerabilities. Fragility or failure in such systems can have far-reaching implications beyond the location of a specific event. Approaching urban systems as interlinked and networked, we consider cascading impacts of shocks and crises at multiple scales, often beyond the administrative boundaries of cities stretching across national boundaries, and how vulnerabilities and risks are distributed unevenly across different groups of people. In this chapter, we argue that such an approach to risk allows for identification of a range of multiple scale policy interventions, including those at the trans-boundary scale for disaster social protection, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation; and ultimately for setting a policy agenda for inclusive, transformative urban futures.


Urbanisation Climate change Regionalization Disaster governance Cross-border disasters Mekong region 


  1. Adger, W. N., Eakin, H., & Winkels, A. (2009). Nested and teleconnected vulnerabilities to environmental change. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7(3), 150–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahern, J. (2011). From fail-safe to safe-to-fail: Sustainability and resilience in the new urban world. Landscape and Urban Planning, 100(4), 341–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ammann, C., Ikeda, K., & MacClune, M. (2014). Projecting the likely rise of future heat impacts under climate change for selected urban locations in south and Southeast Asia. The Sheltering Series, 9, 1–23.Google Scholar
  4. Bangkok Post. (2015). Deal puts Dawei on fast track: Gas-fired power plant will lead development (
  5. Bello, W., Cunningham, S., & Poh, L. K. (1998). A Siamese tragedy: Development and disintegration in modern Thailand. London/New York: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  6. Cutter, S. L., Barnes, L., Berry, M., Burton, C., Evans, E., Tate, E., & Webb, J. (2008). A place-based model for understanding community resilience to natural disasters. Global Environmental Change, 18(4), 598–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. DiGregorio, M. (2015). Bargaining with disaster: Flooding, climate change, and urban growth ambitions in Quy Nhon City, Vietnam. Pacific Affairs, 88(3), 577–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Douglass, M. (1995). Global interdependence and urbanisation: Planning for the Bangkok mega-urban region. In T. G. McGee & I. M. Robinson (Eds.), The mega-urban regions of Southeast Asia. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
  9. Elmqvist, T. (2014). Urban resilience thinking. Solutions, 5(5), 26–30. Scholar
  10. Friend, R. M., & Thinphanga, P. (2018). Urbanisation, climate change and regional integration in the Mekong Region. In K. Archer, & K. Bezdecny (Ed.), Handbook of cities and the environment. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Friend, R. M., & Moench, M. (2013). What is the purpose of urban climate resilience? Implications for addressing poverty and vulnerability. Urban Climate, 6, 98–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Friend, R., & Moench, M. (2015). Rights to urban climate resilience: Moving beyond poverty and vulnerability. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 6(6), 643–651.Google Scholar
  13. Friend, R. M., Thinphanga, P., MacClune, K., Tran, P., & Henceroth, J. (2015). Understanding urban transformations and changing patterns of local risk: Lessons from the Mekong Region. International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, 6(1), 30–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Friend, R. M., Choosuk, C., Hutanuwatr, K., Inmuong, Y., Kittitornkool, J., Lambregts, B., Promphakping, B., Roachanakanan, T., Thiengburanathum, P., Thinphanga, P., & Siriwattanaphaiboon, S. (2016). Urbanising Thailand implications for climate vulnerability assessments, Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network Working Paper Series 30. London: IIED.Google Scholar
  15. Fuller, T. (2011). Thailand flooding cripples hard-drive suppliers. New York Times, 6 November,
  16. Graham, S., & Marvin, S. (2001). Splintering urbanism: Networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Harvey, D. (2001). Globalization and the spatial fix. Geographische Revue, 2, 23–30.Google Scholar
  18. Harvey, D. (2012). Rebel cities from the right to the city to the urban revolution. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  19. Huguet, J. W. (2014). Chapter Thailand migration profile. Thailand Migration Report 2014, p. 1.Google Scholar
  20. Hutanuwatr, K., Krisanapan, A., Charoentrakulpeeti, W., Knobnob, N., & Huong, L. T. T. (2015). Urbanisation, poverty and vulnerability of Bueng Bua community in Lad Krabang Development Area, TEI Working Paper 6 (in Thai).Google Scholar
  21. Institute for Social and Environmental Transition–International, Thailand Environment Institute, & Vietnam National Institute for Science and Technology Policy and Strategy Studies. (2014). Urban vulnerability in southeast Asia: Summary of vulnerability assessments in Mekong-Building Climate Resilience in Asian Cities (M-BRACE). Bangkok: Institute for Social and Environmental Transition–International.Google Scholar
  22. International Herald Tribune. (2010). An industrial project that could change Myanmar. New York Times, 26 November,
  23. Isono, I. (2010). Economic impacts of the economic corridor development in Mekong Region. In M. Ishida (Ed.), Investment climate of major cities in CLMV countries, BRC Research Report (Vol. 4, pp. 330–353). Bangkok: Bangkok Research Centre, IDE-JETRO. Scholar
  24. Klein, N. (2014). This changes everything: Capitalism versus the climate. London: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  25. Leach, M., Bloom, G., Ely, A., Nightingale, P., Scoones, I., Shah, E., & Smith, A. (2007). Understanding governance: Pathways to sustainability. Brighton: STEPS Centre.Google Scholar
  26. Marks, D. (2015). The urban political ecology of the 2011 floods in Bangkok: The creation of uneven vulnerabilities. Pacific Affairs, 8(3), 623–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McCann, E. J. (2004). Urban political economy beyond the ‘global city’. Urban Studies, 41(12), 2315–2333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McGee, T. G. (1991). The emergence of desakota regions in Asia: Expanding a hypothesis. In N. S. Ginsburg, B. Koppel, & T. G. McGee (Eds.), The extended metropolis: Settlement transition in Asia (pp. 3–25). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  29. McKay, D. (2005). Reading remittance landscapes: Female migration and agricultural transition in the Philippines. Geografisk Tidsskrift–Danish Journal of Geography, 105(1), 89–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Molle, F., Foran, T., & Kakonen, M. (Eds.). (2009). Contested waterscapes in the Mekong: Hydropower, livelihoods and governance. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Moris, J. (2014). Reimagining development 3.0 for a changing planet (Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Working Papers, vol. 2014, no. 435, pp. 1–49). Brighton: IDS.Google Scholar
  32. National Economic and Social Development Board. (2011). The eleventh national social and economic development plan, 2012–2016. Bangkok: NESDB, Office of the Prime Minister.Google Scholar
  33. O’Brien, K. L., & Leichenko, R. M. (2000). Double exposure: Assessing the impacts of climate change within the context of economic globalisation. Global Environmental Change, 10(3), 221–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Parnell, S., & Robinson, J. (2012). (Re)theorizing cities from the global south: Looking beyond neoliberalism. Urban Geography, 33(4), 593–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Parnell, S., Simon, D., & Vogel, C. (2007). Global environmental change: Conceptualising the growing challenge for cities in poor countries. Area, 39(3), 357–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Patel, S. (2014). Is there a ‘south’ perspective to urban studies? In S. Parnell & S. Oldfield (Eds.), Routledge handbook on cities of the global south (pp. 37–47). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Pelling, M., & Manuel-Navarrete, D. (2011). From resilience to transformation: The adaptive cycle in two Mexican urban centers. Ecology and Society, 16(2), 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pelling, M., Manuel-Navarrete, D., & Redclift, M. (Eds.). (2012). Climate change and the crisis of capitalism: A chance to reclaim self, society and nature. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Ribiero, G. (2005). Research into urban development and cognitive capital in Thailand. Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies, 4(1), 1–5.Google Scholar
  40. Roachanakanan, T. (2012). ‘Floodways and flood prevention in Thailand: Reflections on the great flood in 2011’, paper delivered at the world flood protection, response, recovery and drawing up of flood risk management conference. Thailand: Bangkok.Google Scholar
  41. Roy, A. (2009). The 21st-century metropolis: New geographies of theory. Regional Studies, 43(6), 819–830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sassen, S. (2005). The global city: Introducing a concept. Brown Journal of World Affairs, 11(2), 27–43.Google Scholar
  43. Scott, A. J., Agnew, J., Soja, E. W., & Storper, M. (2002). Global city-regions. In A. J. Scott (Ed.), Global city-regions: Trends, theory, policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Shatkin, G. (2004). Globalization and local leadership: Growth, power and politics in Thailand’s eastern seaboard. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 28(1), 11–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Shatkin, G. (2007). The city and the bottom line: Urban megaprojects and the privatization of planning in Southeast Asia. Environment and Planning, 40(2), 383–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shimizu, M., & Clark, A. L. (2015). Interconnected risks, cascading disasters and disaster management policy: a gap analysis. Planet@Risk, 3(2), 1–4. Global Risk Forum GRF, Davos.Google Scholar
  47. Siam Commercial Bank. (2011). Looking beyond Bangkok: The urban consumer and urbanisation in Thailand. Thailand: Insight Economic Intelligence Centre.Google Scholar
  48. Srisawalak-Nabangchang, O., & Wonghanchao, W. (2000). Evolution of land-use in urban-rural fringe area: The case of Pathum Thani Province. In Proceedings of the International Conference: The Chao Phraya Delta: Historical Development, Dynamics and Challenges of Thailand’s Rice Bowl. IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement), Kasetsart University, Chulalongkorn University/Kyoto University.Google Scholar
  49. Srivanit, M., Hokao, K., & Phonekeo, V. (2012). Assessing the impact of urbanisation on urban thermal environment: A case study of Bangkok metropolitan. International Journal of Applied Science and Technology, 2(7), 243–256.Google Scholar
  50. Tyler, S., & Moench, M. (2012). A framework for urban climate resilience. Climate and Development, 4(4), 311–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vietnam Economic Times. (2016). Non Hoi refinery project abandoned. (
  52. Wallerstein, I. (2004). World systems analysis: An introduction. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Wangkiat, P. (2016). Laying down the ‘dictator law’ for money. Bangkok Post, 20 March,
  54. Winichakul, T. (1994). Siam mapped: A history of the geo-body of a nation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  55. Winkels, A. (2011). Stretched livelihoods – The social and economic connections between the Red River Delta and the central highlands. In T. Sikor, P. T. Nghiem, J. Sowerwine, & J. Romm (Eds.), Upland transformations: Opening boundaries in Vietnam. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environment DepartmentUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  2. 2.Thailand Environment Institute Foundation (TEI)BangkokThailand

Personalised recommendations