Dhaka, Bangladesh
Show leadership, drop promenade

Show leadership, drop promenade

The Administrative Court last week shocked the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) by issuing an injunction on the Chao Phraya Riverside Promenade -- a controversial project that features a gigantic concrete structure, which many say will cause irreversible damage to the river, which is seen as the country's artery. The injunction on the promenade -- one of 12 projects under the city landscape development master plan -- was issued in response to a petition submitted by a civic network. The court obviously had no objections against other projects that aim to boost green areas in the capital and improve access to the city's older communities. Civic groups under the Network of Town Planners for Society have been fiercely fighting the promenade from the very beginning, yet the BMA has ignored them, prompting the group's bid to seek court intervention. The BMA has 30 days to appeal against the Feb 5 injunction. Conservationists allege the structure, including a two-metre flood embankment and large concrete poles extending into the river, will block the river's flow affecting not just its navigability, but also its ecology. In fact, the idea of opening access to the river is acceptable, because most of the riverside strip is occupied by businesses such as high-end hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. The BMA rolled out the plan on the instruction of the military regime in early 2015. The project was then called the "New Landmark of Thailand". Will injunction halt riverside promenade?Court calls halt to BMA's river promenade project Promenade halt might just save Chao Phraya The BMA was correct in saying that all international metropolises have a promenade, like Cheonggyecheon in Seoul. Apparently, this promenade in the South Korean capital impressed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, then regime leader, so much that he wanted one in Bangkok. The difference, however, is that in other countries walkways are built on the riverbank, not trespassing into the river as proposed by the BMA. What's worse is the BMA's top-down method of doing things and conducting a superficial public participation process. In fact, several riverside communities have been kicked out to pave way for the project -- a move that sparked an outcry. Then there was the exorbitant budget for the project which drew complaints. Though the BMA decided to cut back the budget by more than 50% to 8.3 billion baht, it is unbelievable that the feasibility study alone could have cost close to 1.3 billion baht. While the court will hear more about the project before delivering a final verdict, the project's future is still uncertain given that the Feb 5 ruling is based heavily on the opponents' counter-claim. The court considered the promenade a "building" under the 1989 Building Control Act, not a pier as the BMA has been insisting. The BMA still has to take many steps required by law before the project can proceed, like having the project's blueprints approved by several state agencies as well as carrying out an Environment Impact Assessment. Also, if the promenade does get categorised as a pier, it will be subject to more lenient laws. However, it is believed the BMA will not give up on the project that easily, despite Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang claiming on several occasions that the agency was "ready to abandon the promenade if the people don't want it". In reality, the opposite is true. For instance, the BMA defiantly went ahead even when the people's sector took the case to the Administrative Court late in 2018. More often than not, city officials fight tooth and nail for projects worth billions of baht. The Chao Phraya promenade is no exception and there is no way they will let go of such a big cake. Since nobody knows when the court will issue its verdict, the sensible thing would be for the government to step in and scrap it immediately, instead of letting the BMA waste more time and money on this contentious project.

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