Environmentalists unimpressed by candidates' ideas
Bangkok governor candidates will need to think "outside the box" if they are really committed to making the capital more environmentally friendly. They could also learn from Singapore, considered as the greenest metropolis in the region.In Asia, people enjoy 39 square metres of green areas each on average, but those in Bangkok, with 5.7 million permanent residents on 1,569 square kilometres of land, have to make do with a mere 3sqm each, according to Asian Green City Index 2011, commissioned by Siemens and completed by Economist Intelligence Unit.
Singapore, with five million people squeezed into 715 sqm, offers 66sqm of green area per person.
Besides land use, Bangkok is poorer in energy usage and CO2, sanitation, waste, water and transport - the indicators of going green - in the 2011 ranking.
Under the threat of climate change, "going green" has been part of all candidates' election campaigns, but environmental activists say they still lack the right ideas, let alone the framework to implement the policy.
Pongprom Yanarat, a member of the BigTrees group, which recently campaigned for Bangkok residents to preserve big trees, said the governors of Singapore and Shanghai |have clear plans to make their cities green.
"We have heard that from many candidates but they lack systematic thinking. The former governor (MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra), for example, said he would expand green areas by 1,000 rai in four years. He should have focused more on green areas for each dweller, not green areas for the entire city," he said. Singapore's green policies began with the "Garden City" plan in the 1960s and are continuing into the next century with a "City in a Garden" vision. Singapore Green Plan (SGP) 2012 is its 10-year plan for achieving sustainable development.
The plan describes the strategies and programmes that Singapore will adopt to maintain a quality living environment while pursuing prosperity. To reduce energy consumption, Singapore issued a regulation for new buildings to comply with even higher standards of energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. Its reference project, the 65,000sqm City Square Mall, features sophisticated sensor controls for lighting, ventilation and air conditioning to save 11 million kilowatt hours annually - the equivalent of the power consumed by 2,000 four-room apartments. To ensure that everyone knows that this really is the case, video screens at the mall display the facility's real-time electricity and water consumption figures as well as other parameters.
"We should have such a plan and the system to execute it," Pongprom said.
According to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's Environment Department, Lak Si is the district with the most green areas per person at 16.3 sqm; followed by Pravet with 15.6 sqm and Thawee Watthana with 13.4 sqm.
On the other hand, Bang Rak offers the least green areas per person at 0.29 sqm, followed by Watthana with 0.6 sqm and Chom Thong with 0.6 sqm.
Soranarat Kanchanawit, secretary of the Green World Foundation, urged the new governor to see larger green areas in both downtown and suburban areas. Besides more public parks, green areas can be increased by growing plants on footpaths or trees besides roads.
Or by not trimming roadside trees so often.
"I will vote for any candidate with environmental-friendly policies, regardless of their political party," she said.
Srisuwan Janya, president of the Stop Global Warming Association, said the next governor should pay attention to pollution from waste, air quality and sanitation as no governors have ever done that.
"Politician always sell their policies during their campaigns but after winning the election, they do nothing," he said.
Thongchai Panswad, chairman of the Thailand Cycling Club, also favours candidates vowing to create more public parks, but green areas are not the only thing to make the city liveable. Traffic should be another focus, as people are spending more time on the road.
According to the Energy Ministry, over 40 per cent of CO2 emission in Bangkok comes from over six million vehicles.
Note: This is the second of our "Bangkok governor agenda" series.