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Sukhumbhand backs call for new park on SRT land

State railway plans business venture on Makkasan plot

The Bangkok governor has promised his support to a campaign by city residents to turn a large piece of land in the Makkasan area belonging to the State Railway of Thailand into a new public park.

However, the campaign has met with strong opposition from the SRT, which plans to develop the 497.11-rai (79.5-hectare) plot commercially.

A group of Bangkok residents has proposed a land-management model that could satisfy both commercial and environment purposes.

"The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration wants that green area to become a public park. We will support groups like Big Trees who want the green tract to be turned into a park, so it will remain a green lung of the capital providing fresh air to Bangkok residents," said Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra.

"That area is suitable for developing as a public park, but it's not an easy job because it is owned by the SRT. The BMA will probably negotiate with it asking for permission to develop part of the area as green zone," he said in an interview with The Nation.

SRT governor Prapat Chongsanguan, in a phone interview, said: "We need to make use of the land for business purposes, as it had to generate more income to deal with its debt." He vowed that as part of its commercial-complex project, the SRT would provide a larger green zone in that area than required by law.

Bangkok residents are preparing to propose a land-management model for the SRT and Transport Ministry to consider before they erect a commercial complex in the area.

The model will offer solutions that should satisfy the relevant government agencies and the residents in terms of business and environment, said Pongprom Yamarat, founder of the Big Trees Project, a group of Bangkok residents campaigning for larger green areas and more trees for the city. Prapat said the area had potential for business investment. However, the commercial complex's terms of reference state that the SRT will provide a larger green zone than defined by the law.

However, SRT has not yet agreed to develop the green zone of the business project as a public park.

Pongprom said his group wanted 40 per cent of the 497.11 rai of land to be green zone with big trees, not just an area with small plants or grass.

"We are inviting interested people to attend a meeting with us to be held on May 30 at the Thai Labour Museum, near the SRT's green tract. People will be asked to give their opinions on adjusting our model before we complete it and propose it to SRT and Transport Ministry," he told The Nation.

"We're trying to find good and feasible solutions for both sides," he said.

Before the meeting on adjusting the model, representatives from Big Trees will meet with the Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage next week to work out the model together.

"I'm worried that the SRT won't consider our model and listen to us, but only make a decision on the land management on its own," Pongprom said.

He added that Big Trees Project did not oppose a high building being put on the land, but it would propose that the SRT make it a symbolic building for Bangkok that can help the railway agency generate money by attracting companies that invest in new technologies, for instance biotechnology.

A botanical garden should be established there as well - it would be a way to make use of the biodiversity of different provinces in Thailand that would attract foreign tourists and provide resources or materials for research and development conducted at labs inside the building to produce cosmetics and medicines.

His group will also propose that part of the land where century-old buildings are located should be improved as a public park zone.

"We will have experts calculate the financial matters of our model to ensure that it will work for SRT's use," Pongprom said.

"We want the BMA to act as our facilitator and SRT to focus more on beneficial land use for both sides rather than the laws and listen to people's voices."

Sukhumbhand said the BMA intended to provide new public parks in Bang Bon and Bang Khae, covering about 100 rai in each district.

Bang Na district is in the process of negotiations for a suitable area to be developed as a new public park. It also plans to develop part of the area at Thailand Tobacco Monopoly as a park, the governor said.

Sukhumbhand vowed that he would increase green areas in Bangkok by 1,000 rai this year and by 5,000 rai during his four-year term. BMA officials would try to seek more vacant or unoccupied areas or other areas owned by the private sector to be developed as public parks.

Bangkok has about 3 square metres of green space per person, while the international standard is set at 9sqm, according to www.siemens.com/greencityindex.


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