Dusit Zoo should become a park
With a new land plot given to the Zoological Park Organisation by the palace, the country will soon welcome a new bigger zoo. The land, which was among nine plots bestowed to the government by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn last month, is located in the Klong 6 area of Pathum Thani's Thanyaburi district.
The relocation of Dusit Zoo from Dusit has been the subject of speculation for years in view of how overcrowded the zoo has become. Expansion of the site is not possible because the zoo is flanked by Chitralada Villa on its eastern side and the parliament building on its western side.
The newly designated given to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is deemed more appropriate given that it stretches over 300 rai -- almost three times bigger than the 118-rai original zoo that has served the public for more than 60 years.
Suriya Saengpong, deputy director-general of the Zoological Park Organisation, told the media that if a zoo is to be constructed, it must be done using a "green zoo" concept. His vision deserves everybody's support.
In relocating the zoo, the agency pledged to attach importance to animal welfare and ensure that enclosure designs are based on each animal's natural habitat, avoiding buildings that don't look natural. More space would also be provided for animals.
The construction of the new zoo is expected to begin around 2019 or later.
There are a few concerns about the new site. One is about the distance visitors may have to travel. The old location, which is in the heart of the city, is convenient for people, especially those on low incomes, to visit. Affordable fees have made the place an all-time popular edutainment place since it was opened in 1938 as the first zoo in Thailand.
In developing the new zoo, the agency should look beyond a construction plan. It should also give consideration to how to make the new place accessible to all regarding entrance fees and transport. Special fees must be arranged for schoolchildren when the zoo is launched.
For transport, it must coordinate with the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority and related agencies to make sure that it will be easy and efficient. For example, a shuttle bus service, connected to key rail transport points, should be arranged at weekends when the zoo is likely to be busy.
One key question remains about the future of the old Dusit Zoo after the relocation is completed. The Zoological Park Organisation dismissed the speculation about the old zoo's closure, saying that its board is to discuss the matter on Tuesday when a clear decision will be made.
But the agency should be aware that any decision on the future of the zoo should be based on the history of the place.
Back in the reign of King Rama V, the monarch used the site, which is a stone's throw from Dusit Palace, as a royal botanical garden. It was said the king got the garden idea from his trips to Western countries. The garden was then known as Khao Din Vana because the landscape featured an artificial hill.
When the government of Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsonggram wanted to establish a zoo in the city, it asked for permission from King Rama VIII to use the area for that purpose. The king subsequently agreed and bestowed the name Dusit Zoo after the name of Dusit Palace, together with a few star deer that the palace had received from Java and raised in the grounds, plus some other species.
The zoo is adorned with variety of mature plants, a huge pond and a pleasant landscape. For historical reasons, the zoo agency and the government should consider returning Dusit Zoo to its original use as a botanical garden or a park for public use.
It is beyond question that bustling Bangkok needs more green areas. The city's green space per head, at 1:6.2 square metres, is low compared to advanced countries. It lags behind the capitals of some Asean neighbours like Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta in term of greenness.
This is not to mention that the figures, which are based on the official population of 5.6 million, are unrealistic. It is known that the capital's real population is more than double the official statistics because Bangkok as an economic and trade centre has a large hidden population. It has accommodated people who migrate from the provinces to work.
Acquiring vast land for a park is difficult. The advantage of turning the old zoo into a park is that it will save state budget. The old zoo is ideal for creating a park as it is in prime area and close to many centres of population.
Most importantly, if the government redevelops the old zoo as a park, it will give city people a chance to reconnect to the nation's glorious past.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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