Park, pride and prejudice

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By the time Bangkok celebrated the holiday season, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) had already presented a project to renovate the canal – the Klong Chong Nonsi Public Park – with great pride.

The smooth opening on Christmas Day covered the first phase of the historic 980 million baht project – a 1.5 km stretch of the 4.5 km long canal in the Sathon district. The BMA boasted of having designed the landscape renovation project based on the Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul.

In addition to an invigorated canal with cleaner water, the project includes modern walking tracks and exercise spaces as well as tree-lined riverbanks.

Unfortunately, not everyone welcomed this flagship project. Some have questioned whether it is worth it, and with good reason.

Some academics have even criticized the BMA for not doing enough to solicit public participation. While the BMA has cited Cheonggyecheon as its muse, the body’s public consultation process certainly did not follow the same pattern. While the South Korean project took years of negotiations with aggrieved store sellers and its public consultation was hailed as a model for public inclusion, the BMA used an online public consultation to rush the project. and complete it during the Covid lockdown.

Originally seen as a New Year’s gift for the people of Bangkok, critics have circled the Klong Chong Nonsi Project, questioning its haphazard development under the BMA led by Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang, which caused problems. such as traffic problems aggravating air pollution.

It is noteworthy that under his tenure, the BMA has deployed many landscaping projects on canals and public parks, but almost no initiatives for green public transport. Indeed, there was no reason to rush for the Nonsi project. December-January is usually the time when toxic smog peaks in the city, and all outdoor activities are discouraged.

In recent years, Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang, the governor of Bangkok, has criticized the lack of useful policies to tackle the dangerous haze, apart from emergency measures like spraying water on the streets.

Meanwhile, the BMA has shown much less interest in improving the Bangkok Rapid Transit (BRT) system and better serving the Sathon area.

While Klong Chong Nonsi Park has revitalized the canal, critics ask why a pungent odor still emanates from the newly developed canal. The BMA has promised the water will be clear and clean, but the sewage system remains unfinished – and by then, it might be too late to save the project after its dull smooth opening.

But the key question is when to open smoothly.

Some believe the outgoing governor rushed his launch for political reasons amid reports he could run as an independent candidate in the upcoming gubernatorial election this year. They say this photogenic project, at a glance, could give him and his team some much-needed PR.

Indeed, immediately after the New Year, Pol Gen Aswin created a new hashtag tagline #Krung Thep Plien Pai Laew “(Bangkok has already changed) on his Facebook account and other social networking sites.

Pol Gen Aswin has firmly denied having any political agenda and even pledged to roll out more expensive projects despite the short time he has potentially left in power. Whatever his intentions, rushing projects goes against political tradition for those whose terms are about to end.

Editorial

Bangkok Post Editorial Column

These editorials represent the Bangkok Post’s reflections on current issues and situations.

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