Pattaya needs sustainability

Pattaya needs sustainability

Muang Pattaya municipality is rolling out its new tourism campaign -- "Pattaya Move On" -- in a bid to lure tourists back to the well-known resort town which has turned into something akin to a ghost town after almost two years of Covid-19.

Outside this campaign, the local administration is also investing in giving Pattaya a new look with one example being some 160 million baht set aside to be spent on improving a beach walkway.

However, the municipality's attempt to move Pattaya into the future no longer looks promising, judging by news coverage of the flood that hit the seaside town last week.

News videos showed how, within a few hours, floodwaters had submerged cars and flooded streets.

Floodwaters also broke levee banks and swept sand from North Pattaya to South Pattaya beaches, exposing sand bags that the municipality had used to solve prevent erosion.

Water has been an enemy of Pattaya on more than one occasion over the past decade, largely because it only takes an hour's worth of torrential rain to create a flood situation.

In response, the municipality has invested large chunks of its budget in an effort to cope with the problem -- canal dredging, water pumps and even an underground pipe to channel water from the town's centre into the sea. Yet such flood-prevention measures have proven ineffective so far.

The main factor that has created flooding in low-lying Pattaya is unchecked town development that has disregarded natural flood management.

In the past, the area had a lot of watershed spaces such as natural ponds and low-lying open areas that would absorb flood water, which would then be utilised by farmers and communities.

Like many prosperous, yet flood-vulnerable cities, such as Bangkok, Phuket, and Hat Yai, natural flood drainage systems in Pattaya have been built over and soil that typically absorbs water has been replaced by concrete.

Flooding is not the only water problem for Pattaya or the nation's other crowded urban areas. During the dry season, Pattaya needs to make use of water siphoned from reservoirs in Chanthaburi and Rayong provinces to feed both residents and tourists.

Currently, Pattaya has moved into an unsustainable future, which in the end will undermine its tourism potential, something the government and local municipality have acknowledged.

In 2017, the Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning came up with a 12-billion-baht scheme to develop water infrastructure. The centrepiece of the project is a 1.7km underground tunnel to siphon water from the inner town directly out into the sea.

Yet the plan has moved at a glacial pace. So far, several hundred million baht has been approved but some experts question whether such pro-engineering infrastructure projects are enough to deal with the problem. So far, many of these expensive projects in Pattaya have proven to be ineffective.

It's about time for the municipality and the central government to come up with a more sustainable development plan for Pattaya. Instead of allotting more land for real estate and businesses, policy makers need to come up with better land use policies -- ones that are sustainable.

Without sustainable plans that can deal with flooding, Pattaya will not move on; instead it'll find itself further adrift.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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