Fixing a swamp of cobras: the clash between capital and water in shaping urban vulnerabilities

Richard Morris Friend, Khanin Hutanuwatr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper addresses how capital can refashion landscapes and patterns of risk and vulnerability. Drawing on the emblematic case of the conversion of Thailand’s Cobra Swamp into Suvannabhumi International Airport we argue that there is a fundamental clash between the internal logic of capital accumulation and the ecology of water that occurs in places in which land is under water for much of the year. Counterintuitively investment in public infrastructure such as airports targets locations that are exposed to flood risks. While the literature on capital fixes tends to treat ‘land’ writ large, this paper adds a dimension that has been overlooked in the theoretical work, by highlighting the significance of the ecology of the land in which such fixes occur as a means of understanding patterns of investment, land use change and vulnerability. Our analysis draws on three separate but related concepts of capital ‘fixes’ – spatial, technological and high/low road fixes. We argue the importance of recognising the specific ecological characteristics of land that capital ‘fixes’. This perspective has global significance in providing critical insight into the ways in which capital creates and accommodates the kinds of vulnerabilities and risks associated with climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
Early online date25 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors


  • capital fixes
  • urban vulnerability

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