In desperate need of open spaces and fresh air
Bangkok has one of the lowest percentages of green areas of any major capital in Asia; it's time residents got new parks to breathe inIt is not surprising that a group of environmentalists has expressed dissatisfaction with the pledges of Bangkok's gubernatorial candidates. In fact, none of the candidates is offering a realistic platform that could make the city a more pleasant place to live.
The billboards have sprouted up all across the city, the candidates boasting how they will relieve the debt of the poor, eliminate crime and create a massive public-transportation network. This despite the fact that all of these pie-in-the-sky promises are beyond their jurisdiction or fiscal capacity. None of the candidates talks about how they would improve air quality or take care of specifics that are the direct responsibility of the Bangkok governor, such as how to improve waste-treatment systems.
Bangkok has over the past few decades become one of the fastest-growing cities in Asia. But its rapid growth has basically gone unmanaged.
In Asia, on average, urban people enjoy 39 square metres of green space each. Bangkok has 5.7 million permanent residents (probably twice as many unofficially) on 1,569 square kilometres, meaning they have to make do with a mere three square metres each, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's Asian Green City Index 2011, commissioned by Siemens. Singapore, with 5 million people squeezed into 715 square kilometres, offers 66 square metres of green space per person.
Besides land use, the 2011 rankings indicated that Bangkok is poorer in energy use and CO2 output, sanitation, waste, water and transport - all the indicators of "going green".
Bangkok desperately needs additional green areas to improve the quality of life. And the need for more greenery is ever increasing. People who live in condominiums, for instance, would love to enjoy common green areas where their children can play.
However, outdated regulations and lax enforcement of city zoning has made Bangkok's growth unmanageable in some areas. Some districts have seen a huge rise in population density. The levels of air pollution in some of the busier districts are now hazardous. The water quality in some public waterways is also way below par.
Overall, Bangkok has proved to be resilient. In the past few years the city has emerged from human conflicts and natural disasters due to residents' sense of unity when under pressure. After the floods of late 2011, for instance, there was concern that debris and garbage that floated along waterways downstream to Bangkok might cause severe outbreaks of disease if not treated property. But the cleanup operation put into effect by Bangkokians averted that scenario, and the same effort made after the political conflict of the previous year reinstated the city as a popular tourist destination once again.
Unfortunately the gubernatorial candidates have made no similar effort to leverage this spirit. They should be telling voters how they plan to enhance public engagement and participation to make Bangkok a clean, safe and pleasant place to live.
Bangkok serves as the capital, a province in its own right and the business hub of the nation. It generates massive revenue and income for the country. The Bangkok governor has a duty to support every effort to make the city a modern, liveable metropolis.
It is imperative that more green areas are created, with proper drainage and waste management systems in place.
Unfortunately, these vital issues are not being taken seriously by the candidates. They have forgotten that what people really need is a pleasant environment with fresh air to breathe.