As clear as klong water
text size

As clear as klong water

The Prayut Chan-o-cha government is undeniably serious about revitalising Bangkok's waterways. Not long after he became prime minister in 2014, the general announced his vision of turning the capital into the "Venice of the East" by cleaning up major canals and rivers, redeveloping the landscape and promoting river transport.

Gen Prayut has made good on his word by taking action. Five years ago, after visiting South Korea, he floated the idea of developing a promenade along the bank of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. Inspired by Seoul's Cheonggyecheon riverside promenade, the so-called "Chao Phraya River Promenade" will see 14 kilometres of walking paths and bicycle lanes as well as flood walls built on each side of the river. However, the 14-billion-baht project has been unable to take off. It faced strong resistance from conservationists and civic groups. The Administrative Court subsequently ruled the project would be in violation of building regulations.

To be fair to the government, it has made some positive changes to the canals and the river. The government and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) have succeeded with a project to clean up the canals. The best example might be Klong Ong Ang near Chinatown. Once smelly and strewn with rubbish, it is now a tourist attraction where people enjoy strolling along the banks.

While the interest in revitalising the city's waterways is positive, the latest scheme focusing on Klong Saen Saep has caused some concern due to the project's hefty price tag.

The government-led project drew more flak this week. This came after the cabinet on Tuesday approved a 10-year masterplan for developing Klong Saen Saep, one of Bangkok's main water transport routes. The project will cost an estimated 82.5 billion baht, or about 8 billion baht a year, to build the necessary infrastructure along a 72km stretch of the canal. About 45km of this is in Bangkok, with the rest in less populated communities in Chachoengsao province.

Some 39 water treatment stations must be built as well as a concrete walkway, bicycle lane and flood-retaining wall along the canal. The Ministry of Transport plans to construct more piers to boost boat transport and accommodate up to 100,000 commuters a day. The scheme will be handled by various state agencies and ministries including the BMA, the Transport Ministry and the Interior Ministry.

Even though the project looks promising, the public must remember this is not the first time the government has splurged money on the Klong Saen Saep cleanup project. In 2015, the junta-appointed government disbursed 7 billion baht to the BMA to revitalise a 45km stretch along the canal.

Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang has promised the water in the canal will be clean within two years. The BMA has also pledged to build bicycle lanes, two large wastewater treatment plants and upgrade the piers.

Those promises are similar to the latest plan the cabinet has approved. After six years, there is some improvement in the canal but the promises are far from being realised. The government decided it could not wait, and later approved another 82.5 billion baht.

This raises questions about how transparently the project will be managed, and whether the wastewater treatment plants will be redundant. Meanwhile, the construction of a concrete walkway might lead to opposition or even mass relocation along the river.

The government and BMA must shed their veil of secrecy and explain all of the project's details to the public, and include it in the decision-making process.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email :

Do you like the content of this article?