New city plan 'could ravage' the verdant Bang Krachao

national April 08, 2014 00:00

By Chularat Saengpassa,

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Developers eagerly eyeing 'Bangkok's green lung'

Samut Prakan’s green Bang Krachao area, which serves as a “lung” to produce fresh air for local residents and those in the nearby metropolitan area, is now a new golden treasure for real estate developers given its close proximity to Bangkok and flood-free status.

Enriched with plants and animals – such as barracuda, mango, Malay apple, spine gourd, cork tree and suicide tree – that create a peaceful and beautiful environment, this green area is also threatened by urban sprawl, especially since a new city plan was implemented recently by Samut Prakan authorities.
The plan has changed the pure green area to a green and “white” area, which allows residents to grow crops. 
Bang Krachao – called “Krapaw Moo” (pig’s stomach) by locals due to its shape – covers over 11,818 rai in six tambons in Phra Pradaeng. 
In 1977, there was an attempt to designate it a conservation area and the authorities tried to expropriate all land but thousands of people were living there. So the only thing the then-government could do was persuade locals to voluntarily sell their land to the government. 
To date, only 1,276 of the total 11,818 rai is under the care of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.
“It has changed dramatically over the past five years as many local people sold their land and the price of land has drastically increased,” chief of the Nakhon Khuean Khann Green Area and Eco-management Centre Chutidech Kamonnachanut said.
There have been three city plans for this area. The version in 2001 did not allow any buildings to be constructed in the “green and white” area. 
But the 2005 version allowed buildings to be constructed, although not over 200sq m. 
The controversial 2013 version allows for buildings that don’t cover more than 15 per cent of the permitted area.
For the “pure green” area, the 2005 version allowed buildings that were not over 10 per cent of the permitted area. Landowners were also not allowed to sell their land, to stop housing estates being constructed. 
But the 2013 version allows owners in the green area to sell their land for the construction of housing estates.
Sukij Plubchang, founder of the environmental conservation group Lumphu Bang Krasorb, said he didn’t know how the new city plan was passed. His group was set up to preserve the cork forest within their community – a firefly habitat. Due to the success of the conservation and rehabilitation of the cork tree, the number of fireflies has increased and now the community is a popular “firefly village”. 
Sukij believes the new city plan could ravage the environment.
“We found that this city plan will benefit developers to build housing estates in the area,” he said.
Even though the plan expires in five years, but he said construction during that time would destroy the unique ecosystem.
Prempri Trairat, chairperson of the Green Area Protection Network in tambon Song Kanong, said she was worried that the green area would be reduced due to construction.
“The green area which produces fresh air for millions of people living around Bang Krachao, including Bangkok, will be replaced by modern housing,” she said.
According to Chutidech, the green area in Bang Krachao has decreased 20 per cent due to urbanisation.

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