Ask public over promenade

Ask public over promenade

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has been praised for two urban public park projects. One, which opened last year, the "Phra Pokklao Skypark" -- the city's first skypark across the Chao Phraya River -- creatively transformed the deserted pillars of the decommissioned urban train structure into a leisure area.

The other, the "Bangkok Green Bridge", which is to be launched later this year, involves the redevelopment of a two-decade-old elevated pavement stretching from Sarasin Intersection near Lumpini Park to Benjakitti Park.

These two projects have received a positive response for their creativity and the level of public participation involved.

Abandoning its top-down approach, City Hall has partnered with academic experts and even private architecture firms to help design these projects, both of which saw fit to include local communities their work from day one.

But the next challenge for the BMA involves what it is going to do with its extravaganza Riverside Promenade, the 14-billion-baht mega-landscape development by the Chao Phraya River.

The promenade is the brainchild of the Prayut Chan-o-cha military regime that was cascaded down to the BMA. Unlike the two aforementioned projects, it's obvious the BMA developed it with an archaic bureaucratic mindset. Even though it commissioned academics and experts to draft the plan, the BMA rushed to design the flood wall and the structure.

Essentially, the whole promenade project has 12 plans but the most controversial is No.1 which features the construction of a flood wall, and expansive promenades and bicycle lanes, running on both banks of the Chao Phraya.

The first section, which is 2.99 kilometres long and 6-10 metres wide, is to run from Rama VII Bridge to the Irrigation Department on Samsen Road. Another is the 3.3km promenade stretching from the same bridge to Klong Bang Plat on the Thon Buri side.

Critics have warned the flood wall and promenade structure will adversely affect the river's navigability, flood drainage, not to mention causing pollution that will hurt tourism instead of helping it.

But the BMA has refused to budge, so critics including academic experts on architecture and town planning and civic groups, petitioned the Administrative Court for an injunction. The court last week agreed with the critics.

Last year, the court ruled in favour of the promenade's opponents, saying that the planned structure violates building codes as the BMA failed to seek a construction permit.

Last month, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld the ruling. It also trashed the BMA's explanation that the public will lose out if the promenade and bicycle lane are scrapped.

The BMA on April 1 issued an official letter saying it respects and will comply with the court's ruling but will "postpone" only certain parts of the project.

Such selectivity is regrettable. Indeed, it is about time that the BMA and the Prayut government drops this whole project once and for all.

But if City Hall is really serious about developing the riverside landscape, it should start by following the same bottom-up approach as with the skypark and Bangkok Green Bridge.

City Hall should accept reality and incorporate all stakeholders' views. Otherwise, the Chao Phraya Riverside promenade will remain a pipe dream that turned into a nightmare.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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