Single agency needed to oversee riverside project in Thailand

BANGKOK ( The Nation/ANN) - Chao Phraya River system: expert development, environmental and recreational values need coordination

A Single agency should be established to manage the country’s most important river and its tributaries before work starts on the Chao Phraya riverside promenade project, experts said yesterday.

Thailand lacks an agency responsible for coordinating all matters that affect the river, a discussion entitled “The Chao Phraya River and Urban Development” heard. There are too many agencies with competing interests splitting authority over the river, experts said at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) in Bangkok. 

The Chao Phraya River and its tributaries make up a massive and complex watershed ecosystem that runs from northern provinces, through Bangkok, and on to the delta in Central Region, said Adis Israngkura Na Ayutthaya, an adviser on natural resources and the environment for TDRI.

With multiple competing organisations splitting power over the river, the result is a mish-mash of policies and projects as agencies fail to cooperate for the best overall approach. The lack of cooperation results in a loss of the bigger picture of managing the whole river basin. A single oversight agency could better manage and protect the river, said Adis.

“The Chao Phraya River system is over 1,000 kilometres long and supports many important activities of our society, such as producing tap water, floodwater drainage, sustaining the ecosystem, navigation, and all other activities. “Every part of the system is interconnected,” Adis said.

“However, the BMA’s (Bangkok Metropolitan Administration) riverside promenade project does not consider the complexity of the Chao Phraya River system, which can lead to negative impacts upstream and downstream.”

As a good example of a better approach, Adis pointed to the British Canal & River Trust, which has an outstanding reputation managing the river and canal network throughout Britain.

“The Canal and River Trust is an organisation that looks after the waterways from improper development; protects the ecosystem and historical sites; manages the economic, social, and environmental activities; and ensures sustainable development for the local communities,” he said.

“Therefore, I suggest Thailand reforms the official agencies to cut down duplicate work or overlapping authority over the river, and set up our own organisation to manage all aspects of our Chao Phraya River in consideration of the broad picture.” The head of Thailand Cycling Club, Thongchai Pansawat, challenged the promotion of the riverside promenade as a place for bicycling. The creation of new bicycle lanes for the people of Bangkok on the site was neither a demand of cyclists, nor of other citizens, he said

“Not only this riverside promenade project, but also many cycle lanes in Bangkok are also opposed by the local people. That’s because the construction of these cycle lanes did not consider the local people’s needs and they were a top-down policy,” Thongchai said.

He and other panellists agreed that the project failed to answer the requirements of proper public participation and show a real benefit to people. For example, the lack of transportation links between the promenade and other parts of the city will make it hard for cyclists to get to the promenade. Also, people living near the proposed projects did not really have a chance to participate properly.

Meanwhile, the BMA demolished 21 houses at Kieo Khai Ka Community in Dusit District last week. It is the first riverside community to be removed to pave way for the construction of the project, which will be started soon.
Twelve riverside communities, with 285 total families, face demolition for the project. 

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