High-rise curbs timely

High-rise curbs timely

As an old adage goes, it's better late than never.

An initiative by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (NEPP) to regulate new highrises, with additional requirements on real estate developers to ensure minimal impact on surrounding communities and society in general, is more than welcome.

The regulations, if approved, will require developers to include key factors in their environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies to ensure their projects will not substantially block wind and light from surrounding communities.

They will have to submit three-dimensional projections to support their projects. More importantly, the regulations attach importance to public participation, meaning there must be public hearings and each project will need an approval from surrounding communities.

The criteria for projects that must follow the new regulations remains unclear. But under the current regulations, buildings that are 23 metres tall or higher or those with over 10,000 sq/m of use space must submit EIA studies.

It's an open secret that some developers flout the regulations, taking advantage of legal loopholes. But the new proposal by the NEPP has brought hope for communities.

As expected, the proposal faces strong resistance from developers as it will be more difficult for new projects to get off the ground. Some complain the regulations will add to the cost of a project and the sector might experience contraction.

The NEPP will put the proposed regulations up for a public hearing tomorrow. The developers' complaints should not make the NEPP backtrack.

On the contrary, the agency must maintain its stance. Even better, it should go as far considering Bangkok's urban heat island problem which results from its vast buildings and road expansion while green areas steadily dwindle.

This is the area where the BMA, and most local administrators, lag behind, as high rises such as condominiums and commercial buildings are increasing in number.

Complaints from nearby communities about noise and vibration during construction and longer term problems such as health and life quality mostly go unheard.

Although the NEPP did not mention smog, it's well known that those towering structures have aggravated haze which is now an annual phenomenon for Bangkok and other big cities, starting late in the year and lasting until March.

That's a time when the wind is normally calm, allowing a cloud of ultra-fine dust particles to accumulate in the air. Tall structures like multi-storey buildings scattered around the city make it much worse.

Although such bad weather doesn't cause sudden or rapid deaths, it's a major health issue that affects several hundred thousand people each year, resulting in a budget burden for the state.

Local administrators in past years have tackled smog with piecemeal activities like water spraying, which has proved to be a waste of time and taxpayers' money.

The problem will continue to haunt us unless it's dealt with at policy level such as new regulations that will give local people a say. It's time developers of high-rise projects with an environmental impact, such as pollution and traffic, learn a tough fact: we can't afford any more laissez faire.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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