It's welcome news that Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt has ordered city officials to review the capital's 2024 zoning map, to promote development on the city's outskirts.
The review is necessary -- Bangkok's outskirts are notorious for laissez-faire attitudes among developers who break land use laws to get projects built.
Developers often ignore town planning and land zoning laws, including those pertaining to areas classified as the green/white code -- conservation, rural and farm zones -- which used to be flood-drainage zones.
They also build projects based on road access, which limits development to areas along major roads, leaving other parts of land under-used.
Mr Chadchart's new vision for Bangkok's zoning map sounds promising.
He said it will be based on the best direction for the city's development instead of having a rigid focus on land zone codes that indicate what kinds of structures can be built in certain areas.
He told officials that undeveloped land on the eastern outskirts (such as plots around Lat Krabang, Rom Klao and Bang Khunthian), on the western outskirts, and under-utilised plots owned by state agencies such as the National Housing Authority (NHA) could be developed into self-contained satellite towns, with their own residential zones, schools, offices, public parks and hospitals.
The new plan will likewise look at the development potential of under-utilised plots in Min Buri district. City Hall will also look at rules surrounding parking spaces and building conservation, he said.
While the vision of the Bangkok governor is exciting, he should not forget to include the best use of natural flood drainage areas such as open spaces, wetlands and ponds in the western and eastern outskirts.
Vast flood plains -- low-lying land on the western and eastern outskirts -- have served as natural floodways for decades or even centuries.
However, such flood-drainage areas have been diminished because developers -- even state agencies -- have filled the land to build commercial projects, housing estates or even infrastructure.
Without a vast flood plain, floods will flow into city areas.
In a sense, it's unfair to fully blame developers. The BMA, over the past few decades, has failed to protect these flood-drainage areas and developers have been allowed to use them.
The BMA instead focused on investing almost 4 billion baht per year over the last decade to build underground water tunnels, flood dykes and water gates.
It's hoped the governor's vision of flood prevention will not be a repeat of the same old playbook that relies on concrete structures or sending people to dredge canals and remove debris from clogged sewage systems.
The BMA can do better by creating open spaces, removing structures that create floods and adding more wetlands to the eastern and western outskirts.
Previous and recent floods in Bangkok speak volumes that water tunnels or even canal dredging are not enough to protect the city from floods. It needs natural flood-draining land to help stave off floods.