Pavements must be safe
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Pavements must be safe

Hole of tragedy: Police examine a manhole and its flimsy wooden covering on Friday in Lat Phrao district of the capital after a 59-year-old man fell into it and died. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)
Hole of tragedy: Police examine a manhole and its flimsy wooden covering on Friday in Lat Phrao district of the capital after a 59-year-old man fell into it and died. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)

About two weeks ago, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) launched a project to upgrade the city's footpaths. The plan is to start the work along 16 routes which bisect the city's busiest areas, before improving some 1,000 kilometres of pavements across the city.

At a press conference held on April 25, journalists were shown the BMA's vision of what Ploenchit Road would look like following the upgrades, complete with accessible street furniture and manhole covers which are custom designed to reflect the identity of the neighbourhood.

The fanfare surrounding the project, however, turned out to be short-lived. About a week following the announcement, a 59-year-old man died after falling into a seven-metre-deep manhole shaft along the pavement on Lat Phrao Road -- which is one of the 16 roads on BMA's priority list. The shaft was only partially covered by centimetre-thick plywood.

To make matters worse, MEA said the plywood was used to replace an iron manhole cover that had been stolen, noting it probably was sold to a scrapyard.

This senseless loss could have been avoided if City Hall officials were truly serious about public safety. Both the BMA and the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA), which is responsible for the shaft and footpath upgrades in the area, owes the public a clear explanation. Was there any collaboration between the MEA as the contractor and BMA officials tasked to look after pedestrian areas in the capital city?

Such a tragedy is unforgivable. Instead of using substandard material to replace the missing manhole cover, officials should have quickly replaced the missing cover properly to ensure public safety and catch those who stole the cover.

The accident on Friday confirmed that Bangkok's footpaths aren't just unpleasant -- they pose a hazard to pedestrians. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015, about 22% of fatalities reported on Thai roads involved pedestrians.

Another survey on the quality of footpaths by the Urban Design and Development Centre at Chulalongkorn University found 31.5% of pedestrians surveyed have suffered accidents caused by the poor condition of the city's pavements.

In an average year, about 750 people call the BMA's complaint hotline to report various problems involving the city's pavements, which range from uneven surfaces to broken and/or missing sewer grates and manhole covers. The question is, how is the BMA dealing with the issue?

With regards to the accident on Friday, Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt did the right thing by admitting that the BMA is partly responsible.

The first thing Mr Chadchart needs to do is find out if city officials regularly inspect the condition of pavements along Lat Phrao Road.

It is hoped that the governor will not stop at asking the public to report pavement-related complaints on "Traffy Fondue" -- City Hall's reporting application. While this is a good solution, why must the BMA wait for the public to lodge a complaint?

Doesn't the BMA routinely send engineers to inspect the conditions of pavements and/or other construction projects regularly? City Hall is the owner of the city's footpaths, and people count on them to ensure their cleanliness and safety.

It can't just decorate a broken sidewalk with flashy things and call it a day.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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