Delay in Chao Phraya promenade project

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) -The Chao Phraya Riverside promenade project is behind schedule due to “procedural difficulties” and hiring the academic institute to serve as the project adviser has been suggested as a solution.

The Chao Phraya Riverside promenade project is behind schedule due to “procedural difficulties” and hiring the academic institute to serve as the project adviser has been suggested as a solution.

The project has been criticised for its lack of information, the ambiguousness of its terms of reference and for disregarding of the riverside communities it is impacting on.

The Siam Society and the Architect Council of Thailand last week stated the need to revise the project to address the problematic issues.

“We are planning to hire a university to do the study and consulting for the project because as of now no decision has been made by the top executives of the BMA [Bangkok Metropolitan Administration] to open the round of bidding,” said Phinit Lert-udomthana, chairman of the committee charged with finding a consulting firm for the project.

“It is certain that the project will have to face a delay, if there is nothing happening like this.”

Only one consulting firm showed an interest in bidding for the project, so the BMA cancelled the auction.

Phinit revealed that his committee had come up with the university adviser suggestion, which would remove the need to hire a consulting firm.

“The committee has contacted Chulalongkorn University because the university has a very good reputation of academic excellent and it will help boost the credibility of the project study report,” he said.

He said that if the university suggestion is rejected by the BMA, the qualification criteria for picking a consulting firm would have to be lowered to allow more companies to complete in the auction and that may result in lower quality bid winner.

The project has faced strong opposition since it was announced early this year. Last week the Siam Society and ACT said in a statement that the authorities needed to respect the social, historical and geological context of Chao Phraya River and the communities along its bank.

Prof Kanung Luchai, a senior honorary adviser for the Siam Society, stated that the organisation was not totally against the project, but it believed the government was trying to push it without providing adequate information to the public.

“The Chao Phraya River is the major bloodline of the country. The communities along its bank all have their own unique identity, which is the symbol of Bangkok and Thailand. So it is very important that the project is developed with an understanding of the social, historical and cultural context of the area,” Kanung said.

Sudara Sudchaya, an expert in the history and heritage of communities, said building the large promenade would further isolate communities from their historical connection to the river, like what happened with the construction of the 3.5 metres-high flood prevention dike there.

“The Chao Phraya River is [part of] the national identity and Thai people historically connect with the river. So it is not appropriate to entirely copy the riverside development plans of other countries, which have different contexts, to build on our river,” Sudara said.

At a separate media conference, ACT president Jedkamchorn Phromyothi said the terms of reference for the 14 kilomtre project were based on the understanding that “one section fits all” for its construction.

That neglected the environment of the area and it did not prioritise public participation in the project, Jedkamchorn said.
Jedkamchorn urged those responsible for project to revise it relying on greater input from experts.

Chulalongkorn University’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning said that there were 29 riverside communities, eight schools, eight religious places, eight administrative offices and one landmark affected by the project.

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