Bangkok canal cleanup begins

Bangkok canal cleanup begins

Saen Saep passes through Pathumwan commercial district, Inset: A khlong taxi cruising at fast speed Khlong Saen Saep in Bangkok. (Source: Wikipedia)
Saen Saep passes through Pathumwan commercial district, Inset: A khlong taxi cruising at fast speed Khlong Saen Saep in Bangkok. (Source: Wikipedia)

Bangkok canals were once filled with clear, clean water & fish. Govt project hopes to cleanup canals & restore them to their former state.


Bangkok canal cleanup begins

Wasant Techawongtham & Amornrat Mahitthirook

Tourists dip their feet in canal to cool off.

Bangkok canals were once filled with clear, clean water teeming with aquatic life.

Khlongs, as canals are called in Thai, were a ubiquitous feature of Bangkok.

No residence was far from a khlong. But that was a long time ago.

Many of the khlongs have since been filled in and made into roads.

The remaining ones are in a sorry state -- having been left to rot, literally, with household sewage and other waste.

Over the years, there have been many attempts to rehabilitate canals, but they never amounted to much.

The current government has now launched a campaign to clean up Bangkok's canals.

Khlong Lat Phrao and Khlong Saen Saep have been targeted in the initial phase of the programme.

Vendor along a Bangkok canal using the more traditional form of transportation.


Canal Saen Saep winds it way through downtown Bangkok.

The cabinet has allocated 7 billion baht to clean up the polluted Saen Saep canal in Bangkok and Chachoengsao province over the next two years.

Most of budget, 6.8 billion baht, will go to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) because 45.5 kilometres of the 72km canal are in Bangkok and the water in the canal is more polluted in Bangkok.

The cabinet also ordered the canal rehabilitation project be finished in 2017, instead of the earlier schedule of 2020, in line with an instruction by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

The prime minister wants Khlong Saen Saep to be clean and safe because there are 28 passenger boat piers and the canal serves about 100,000 commuters a day.

Water in the section of Khlong Saen Saep in Chachoengsao was of better quality, with a higher level of dissolved oxygen, and could be used for agriculture. Water quality in the Bangkok section would be improved to the same standard.

Authorities would also build bicycle lanes and improve the landscape on both banks (or sides) of the canal

Of the 7-billion-baht cleanup budget, 75 million baht will be for surveillance cameras along the canal.

School boats rather than school buses are how people living next to Bangkok canals get to school. Note children are holding nose because of bad smells from canal.


Passenger boat along Saen Saep canal.

Saen Saep canal has a fascinating history outlined in a ThaiPBS article here.

Khlong Saen Saep is the longest man-made canal in Thailand.

King Rama III ordered the canal to be built in 1837 to create a water transport route during a war with Vietnam over Cambodian territory and it took three years to build.

After the war, it became a major transport and commercial route.

Currently, it is the only canal which offers a passenger boat service in Bangkok.

The 90 km canal connected the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok with the Bang Pakong river in Chachoengsao

The lotus flowers that grew abundantly in the canal led King Mongkut (1851-1868) to build Sra Pathum Palace (Lotus Pond Palace) as a country residence near the canal (see here). Sra Pathum Palace is now the residence of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.  

Today the whole district near the former palace is named Pathumwan district.

Passenger boat travels along green Bangkok canal.


Garbage thrown into canal by canal-side houses in Lat Phrao canal.

Currently, less than half of all wastewater in Bangkok is handled by wastewater treatment plants.

The problem of the foul canal water (khlong water) is being addressed by the construction of a wastewater treatment plant in Bangkok's outer suburb of Min Buri. But this will only be a partial solution because the worst part of the problem occurs closer to the city, where wastewater treatment remains woefully inadequate.

Most Bangkok residences are not equipped with grease traps that can prevent grease from entering canals.

Barge used to dredge canal.

Other activities, such as food stalls, restaurants, car washes, commercial establishments and factories, discharge foul water directly into the canals. Rubbish continues to be thrown mindlessly into canals.

The cleanup will include getting households to install grease traps and equip industrial plants with wastewater treatment systems.


In addition to wastewater and water pollution problems, Khlong Lat Phrao faces a serious encroachment problem by some 3,000 households over its 24km length.

Relocation of the encroached households has already begun.

This will be the most difficult phase of the project. Once relocation is complete, work will begin on dredging and constructing flood prevention dykes along its length.

Lat Phrao canal with sign.

Along Lat Phrao canal, houses are located close to or even over the canal.

Lat Phrao canal.

Learn from listening

Click play to listen to audio for this story, or download to save the file
: :


  • abundantly: more than enough - มากมาย
  • activity (noun): a thing that you do for work, interest or pleasure, or in order to achieve a particular aim - กิจกรรม
  • address: to deal with a problem - จัดการปัญหา
  • agriculture: the science or practice of farming - เกษตรกรรม, การเกษตร
  • allocate (verb): to give out an amount of or share of something - แบ่งส่วน
  • aquatic: growing or living in or near water - เกี่ยวกับน้ำ
  • attempt (noun): when a person tries to do something or achieve some goal, makes an effort to do it - ความพยายาม
  • authority (noun): a person or government agency who has the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA): the local government of Bangkok - กรุงเทพมหานคร
  • bank: a raised area of land along the side of a river (or canal) - ริมฝั่งแม่น้ำ
  • budget: an amount of money able to be spent on something - งบประมาณ
  • cabinet: the group of government ministers who make and approve government policy - คณะรัฐมนตรี
  • campaign: a planned group of especially political, business or military activities which are intended to achieve a particular aim - การรณรงค์
  • canal (noun): a waterway, a long hole in the ground made to send water from one place to another - คลอง
  • clear: can see through it, like a glass window - ใส
  • commercial: for business purposes - เกี่ยวกับการค้า
  • commuter: a person who regularly travels between work and home - คนเดินทางระหว่างบ้านและที่ทำงาน
  • construct: to build or make something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. - สร้าง
  • construction: the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. - การก่อสร้าง
  • country (noun): outside of cities and towns, in farming or mountain area, in rural area - ชนบท, บ้านนอก, ต่างจังหวัด
  • current: of the present time - ปัจจุบัน
  • currently: at this time; now - ในปัจจุบัน
  • discharge: a liquid that is released - น้ำที่ปล่อยออก, น้ำที่ขับออก
  • dissolve: to be absorbed by a liquid, especially when mixed - ละลาย
  • district (noun): an area of a country, town or province, especially one that has particular features - เขต, อำเภอ, บริเวณ, แขวง
  • dredge: to remove unwanted things from the bottom of a river, canal, lake, etc. using a sucking or other device - ขุดลอก
  • dyke: a wall built to prevent the sea, river of flood water from covering an area - คันกั้นน้ำ, เขื่อนกั้นน้ำ
  • dyke: a wall built to prevent the sea, river of flood water from covering an area - เขื่อนกั้นน้ำ
  • encroachment: gradually entering and taking control over an area of land - การบุกรุก
  • establishment: an organisation, an institution or a hotel - สถานประกอบการ
  • fascinating: extremely interesting - น่าหลงใหล, มีเสน่ห์
  • feature: something important, interesting or typical of a place or thing - จุดเด่น, คุณสมบัติ
  • flood (verb): to cover with water or another liquid - ท่วม
  • former: of or in an earlier time; before the present time or in the past - อดีต, แต่ก่อน
  • foul: extremely unpleasant - น่ารังเกียจ
  • grease: the oil that comes from animal meat when it is cooked - ไขมันสัตว์
  • handle: to be able deal with a situation - ควบคุมได้, เอาอยู่, จัดการได้
  • household: a group of people, often a family, who live together - ครัวเรือน
  • in a sorry state: deteriorated, in bad condition - ทรุดโทรม, เสื่อมโทรม, เลวลง, ชำรุด
  • in line with: following a rule or system; also in accordance with and consistent with - สอดคล้องกับ
  • inadequate: not enough, or not good enough for a particular purpose - อย่างไม่เพียงพอ
  • initial: early; first - เบื้องต้น
  • instructions: something that somebody tells you to do - คำสั่ง
  • landscape: an area of land that is beautiful to look at or that has a particular type of appearance - ภูมิประเทศ, ภูมิทัศน์
  • launch: starting something - การเริ่มต้น
  • literally: really true; exactly as what was said - อย่างแท้จริง, อย่างตามตัวอักษร
  • lotus: an Asian water plant with large white or pink flowers - ดอกบัว
  • major: very large or important - สำคัญมาก
  • man-made: made by people, not part of nature such as a mountain, forest or lake usually is -
  • mindlessly (adj.): to do something without thinking -
  • never amounted to much: did not achieve anything; never succeeded in doing something good or difficult - บรรลุผลสำเร็จ
  • occur: to happen - เกิดขึ้น
  • order (verb): to use your position of authority to tell somebody to do something or say that something must happen - สั่ง
  • outline (verb): to give the main ideas of a plan or a piece of writing without giving all the details - สรุปส่วนสำคัญ
  • palace: the official home of a king, queen, president, etc, a large impressive house - พระราชวัง, ตำหนัก, ปราสาท
  • partial: in part, but not complete - บางส่วน
  • passenger: someone who travels in a motor vehicle, aircraft, train, or ship but is not the driver or one of the people who works on it - ผู้โดยสาร
  • phase: a particular period of time during the development of something - ตอน, ขั้นตอน, ช่วง, ระยะ
  • pier: a platform sticking out into water which people walk along or use when getting onto or off boats - ท่าเรือชนิดยื่นออกไปในน้ำ, สะพานที่ยื่นออกไปในน้ำ
  • plant: a factory; a factory that produces power or processes chemicals, etc. - โรงงาน
  • polluted: (of water, air, land) having dirty or harmful substances so that it is no longer pleasant or safe to use - ซึ่งเป็นมลพิษ
  • pollution (noun): contaminated, when something has been made dirty, poisonous, unpleasant to see or smell and possibly dangerous to health - การทำให้เป็นมลพิษ, การทำให้สกปรก, ภาวะมลพิษ, สภาวะมลพิษ, มลภาวะเป็นพิษ, สภาพเป็นพิษ, ความสกปรก
  • prevent (verb): to stop somebody from doing something; to stop something from happening - ขัดขวาง, ป้องกัน, กัน, กีดขวาง
  • prevention: preventing something bad from happening - การป้องกันภ้ย
  • province: one of many divisions of the government of a country into smaller parts - จังหวัด
  • quality: the standard of something when it is compared to other things like it; how good or bad something is - คุณภาพ
  • rehabilitate: to return someone or something to a good or healthy condition, state or way of living - ฟื้นฟูสุขภาพ
  • rehabilitation: the process of returning someone or something to a good or healthy condition, state or way of living - การทำให้กลับสู่สภาพเดิม, การทำให้กลับมาดีเหมือนเดิม
  • relocation: the process of moving someone or something to a new place - การย้ายที่ใหม่
  • remain: to still be present after the other parts have been removed, used, etc; to continue to exist - ยังเหลืออยู่
  • residence: a place where someone lives - ที่พำนัก ที่อาศัย
  • rot: to spoil; to decay - เน่า
  • route: the roads, paths, waterways, etc., used to go from one place to another - เส้นทาง
  • rubbish: waste material or things that are no longer wanted or needed - ขยะ
  • schedule: a list of things intended to be done - ตารางเวลา
  • section: any of the parts into which something is divided - ส่วน, ส่วนที่ตัดออก, ส่วนย่อย
  • sewage: waste substances, especially waste from people’s bodies, removed from houses and other buildings by a system of large underground pipes called sewers - สิ่งปฏิกูล, น้ำโสโครก
  • site: a place where something is located - สถานที่
  • solution: a way of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation - วิธีแก้ปัญหา
  • stall: a large table or a small building that is open at the front, used for selling things (or for giving people information) - รถ หรือแผงขายของ
  • standard: a (high) level of quality - มาตรฐาน
  • suburb: an area or town near a large city but away from its centre - ชานเมือง
  • surveillance: the process of carefully watching a person or place that may be involved in a criminal activity - การตรวจตรา
  • target (noun): an object, person, business, building, area, etc., that someone intends to attack, deal with or find - เป้าหมาย
  • teem: to be full of people, animals, etc. moving around - มีอยู่คับคั่ง, มีอยู่เต็ม, เต็มไปด้วย
  • territory: an area of land controlled by a particular country, leader or army - อาณาบริเวณ  อาณาเขตประเทศ
  • transport: moving people or things from one place to another - การขนส่ง
  • trap: to catch or keep something in a place and prevent it from escaping - กับ, กับดัก
  • treatment: a process in which a substance is put on something, for example in order to preserve or clean it - การใส่ (สารเคมีเป็นต้น)
  • ubiquitous: found everywhere, existing everywhere -
  • waste (noun): the useless part that is thrown away after something is used - ขยะ, ของเสีย, ที่ไม่มีประโยชน์, การสูญเสียไปโดยเปล่าประโยชน์, การหมดเปลือง
  • wastewater (noun): water that has been used already and thrown away - น้ำที่ใช้แล้ว, น้ำทิ้ง
  • whole (adjective): all of something - ทั้งหมด
  • woefully: completely and sadly -
Do you like the content of this article?