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Floating resilience: understanding sea level rise and human mobility in Thailand

How is sea level rise impacting local communities? Their livelihoods? Their mobility decisions? This project will generate new insights and approaches on the impacts of SLR and the adaptation strategies pursued by households especially the role of mobility. 

Active project


Fishing boat on water, Pak Phanang, Thailand

Fishing boat, Pak Phanang, Thailand. Photo Credit: Nicole Anschell


Around 24.9 million people were newly displaced in the context of disasters in 2019. Asia and the Pacific have been the most affected, with approximately 19.1 million new displacements. These numbers only include people displaced in the context of sudden-onset disasters, and not slow-onset. However, in some contexts, slow-onset disasters, like sea-level rise, drought, and environmental degradation, displace more people repeatedly and for longer periods. This is the case in the Asia-Pacific region, where slow-onset disasters contribute to “a greater share of internal displacement and will play a larger role in the future“.

It is widely recognized that sea level rise is likely to be a significant challenge of the century for coastal communities across the globe. Despite sometimes conflicting data, the literature is strong in its predictions that Thailand, with almost 3000 kilometres of coastline and over 1000 islands, will be adversely impacted by sea level rise and its accompanying risks like coastal erosion and salinity intrusion. There is a need to consider broader strategies that include the livelihood and settlement implications of  sea-level rise. The broader social impacts of sea-level rise have not been widely documented, including adaptation measures and coping mechanisms such as human mobility.

House and community centre on the water, Baan Koh Chai, Thailand.

House and community centre, Baan Koh Chai, Thailand. Photo Credit: Nicole Anschell


There are limited studies in the Asia region on the impacts of sea-level rise and other coastal hazards on households, communities and livelihoods. There is an essential need to better understand how the impacts of slow-onset disasters affect livelihoods, and how they may or may not lead to human mobility. To do so, we will work with the community of Baan Koh Chai, a floating village located in the Nakhon Si Thammarat province in Southern Thailand.

New approaches are needed to capture situations where slow-onset events, alongside other social and economic factors, play a contributing role in disaster displacement. This research seeks to contribute by exploring household and community-level stories of how sea-level rise impacts livelihoods in order to better understand resilience, drivers of human mobility and the community networks and values that contribute to mobility decisions. Additionally, it seeks to unpack how sea-level rise exacerbates other environmental risks like flooding and cyclones.

SEI Team

Profile picture of Julia Barrott
Julia Barrott

Impact and Learning Officer

Global Operations

SEI Oxford

Albert Salamanca
Albert Salamanca

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Asia

Natalia Biskupska

Programme Manager

SEI Asia

Karen Brandon
Karen Brandon

Senior Communications Officer and Editor


SEI Oxford

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