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The first phase of the Chao Phraya River project begins next month, and the internet is not happy about it

Despite public and professional criticism, the BMA is bulldozing ahead with its Chao Phraya River Promenade. 

By Bonnie Sananvatananont | Mar 20, 2017

  • The first phase of the Chao Phraya River project begins next month, and the internet is not happy about it

Over the weekend, it was announced that the Chao Phraya River Promenade project, which will see a 14-kilometer (seven kilometers on each side) stretch of the river turned into a cycle lane, public walkway and riverside landmark, has officially been given a green light by the Ministry of Interior. The first phase of the project will begin this April with auctioning off the four construction agreements.

Within the anouncement, the government also confirmed the completed clearance of 10 riverside communities, including 285 households, and will begin construction this July in four phases, with an estimated completion date by 2019. The complete project is valued at B8.4billion. 

The announcement also came with compromises to reduce the width of the sidewalk from 12-19 meters down to 7-10 metres at the request of citizens.    

However, the news did not go down well with netizens, in particular the Facebook page Friends of the River, who posted an extensive 11-point bullet list on the problems with the project:

Titled "Is the BMA violating the law and the civil rights of Thai people?", some of the many arguments in the list include:

  • No professional city planning, engineering or architecturaal teams have been shown or consulted about these plans.
  • Despite their willingness to reduce the width of the bridge, the government is still proceeding to build a 14km path, which will potentially stretch to 57km into Bangkok city. They have failed to address the impacts this will have on the landscape of the river, its history, the way of life for people nearby, navigational changes, ecology changes and tourism. 
  • There is no detailed masterplan in place for the project and the policies involved, as well as the details on why extending 57km into Bangkok is appropriate. The government is proceeding with the first phase 14km sidewalk without being able to clearly state why and what they aim to achieve. 
  • The plan violates the urban planning law to build alongside the river, even though the government have cleared riverside communities under the basis of violating this very law. 
  • The plan violates the rights of Thai nationals in having a voice in the development of the Chao Phraya river by forcing in a pre-determined plan by the government. The government has claimed that the majority agrees with the plan, which we believe is untrue. 
  • With this project totaling over B8 billion in value, is there no better use for this money in developing other areas of the city or improving the river in other ways than to build a riverside biking track?

[Do note that these are just a few select points from the 11 points in Friends of the River's original post.] 

The post ends by calling the attention of the government, stating that "The people are waiting for a response". 

Since being posted, Friends of the River's list has been shared nearly 700 times on Facebook, with architect Duangrit Bunnag being one of them. Along with the post, he asks "Imagine someone is about to build a road in front of your house but they have never shown you the plans. Is this the Thailand we are living in now?"

Ever since the current junta government first proposed the Chao Phraya River Promenade at the end of 2014, it has been a point of huge public criticism. 

Along with attacks at its environmental and historical insensitivity, the project was also at the center of a humiliating copycat scandal late last year when plans for a riverside Bangkok museum appeared to rip off an old Foster + Partners design in Moscow.

The plans for the muesum have since been scrapped. 

Read our full coverage of the Chao Phraya River Promenade project controvesy here. 

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