Bangkok Post

Chao Phraya promenade project faces opposition

- ANCHALEE KONGRUT Anchalee Kongrut writes about the environmen­t in the Life section, Bangkok Post.

The banks along the Chao Phraya River have suddenly become a red-hot zone for real estate developmen­t. Over the past few years, a number of investors have turned to this once dormant area and used it to build high-rise buildings.

The latest move has been made by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has announced a plan to turn the riverside area into a promenade, dubbed the “New Landmark of Thailand,” with a 14-billionbah­t budget.

The promenade’s first 14 kilometres start from the Rama VII Bridge to Pin Klao Bridge, spanning both sides of the river.

The next phase will extend upstream to Phra Nang Klao bridge and the last phase will stretch down from Pin Klao bridge to Rama III bridge.

Yet the “New Landmark” faces a challenge. Last month, profession­al architects started to express concern about its blueprints which include a high flood embankment, measuring 3.5 metres. Their fear is warranted because the proposed design, at 19.5m in width, is the old version that was created two decades ago when the authoritie­s initiated a plan to build roads and flood prevention walls along both sides of the Chao Phraya River.

“We welcome the developmen­t along the river but we are deeply worried about the blueprint of the project which is a one-size-fits-all straight concrete structure,” said Asst Professor Khaisri Puksukchar­oen of the urban planning department at Chulalongk­orn University’s faculty of architectu­re.

“We highly recommend the government pause the project for public hearings and environmen­tal impact assessment (EIA) studies. The design blueprint must be revised.”

The design, she said, was not suitable for the physical and social complexiti­es of the Chao Phraya River.

“The-one-size-fits-all design of this project does not take into account the connectivi­ty between the promenade and communitie­s living deep inland,” she said.

“This river is not a straight gutter but a cultural and ecological landscape which is characteri­sed by various communitie­s, with different cultures and varied land use, temples of different faiths, schools, and various ecological systems.”

As a result, around 29 well-establishe­d communitie­s — among them government agency offices, schools and traditiona­l temples — will be affected.

The architects, lecturers from various educationa­l institutes including Chulalongk­orn, Silpakorn, Thammasat and Kasetsart universiti­es as well as civic groups have formed a network called the Chao Phraya Riverside Area Developmen­t Alliance to keep a close watch on this project.

Their call has gone unheard. On Wednesday, the Office of Natural Resources and Environmen­tal Policy and Planning dismissed the call for the EIA studies.

Resistance against the riverside promenade has now grown. Thammasat University, hospital operators and owners of buildings along the river are on high alert over the project. Many are concerned with the visual impact from the promenade.

Assist Prof Panit Pujinda, lecturer on urban planning at Chulalongk­orn University’s faculty of architectu­re, warned that the flood embankment will become an eyesore, given that it will be a solid chunk of concrete.

The group also challenged the idea of flood prevention using such a concrete structure, with many believing it will be counterpro­ductive.

They pointed out that, ecological­ly, the Chao Phraya receives surface runoff from inland areas including networks of canals, and the 3.5m dyke would block the runoff and instead turn the inland into “a bowl of soup”.

Growing resistance has prompted state planners to consider reducing the width of the embankment.

Assoc Prof Ariya Aruninta of the faculty of landscape architectu­re at Chulalongk­orn said the concrete structure was an outdated design.

“The concept of flood management changes regarding the landscape and land use developmen­t,” she said.

“We have realised that the concrete hard structure will not prevent flooding and that the more you build, the higher water will rise, as this kind of embankment will prevent water from naturally flowing into the areas it should.”

The lecturer said green design advocates are now looking at “permeable surfaces” as an alternativ­e in flood prevention. These surfaces make use of the natural land area or its space to help retain and absorb floodwater, and the method has been used in Thailand flood prevention before, including for its wetlands and canals.

The best example is His Majesty the King’s kaem ling project (translated literally as “monkey cheek”) that diverts floodwater to natural storage channels, Assoc Prof Ariya said.

We highly recommend the government pause the project for public hearings.

 ?? KRIT PROMSAKA NA SAKOLNAKOR­N ?? A bird’s eye view of the Chao Phraya. A plan to turn the riverside area into a promenade is under fire.
KRIT PROMSAKA NA SAKOLNAKOR­N A bird’s eye view of the Chao Phraya. A plan to turn the riverside area into a promenade is under fire.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Thailand