Leaping out from Bangkok’s vast concrete sprawl is a kidney-shaped green space, home to hundreds of plant and bird species, and where cars are outnumbered by bicycles.
However, residents and campaigners fear the unique ecosystem and character of the city’s so-called “green lung” is under threat, as developers lure locals with lucrative land deals.
Bang Krachao is an artificial island formed by a canal and a bend in the meandering Chao Praya River.
The area stands apart on Google Maps: a swathe of greenery in an otherwise concrete jungle of traffic-choked streets, towering condos and sprawling factories.
While the rest of Bangkok has developed at a dizzying pace over the past five decades — often with little thought put into sustainable long-term planning — Bang Krachao remains an oasis of calm. Covering 16km2, its pathways are popular with weekend cyclists and expatriate day-trippers seeking respite from the helter-skelter of Bangkok’s streets.
However, the fight is now on to stop the concrete from consuming Bangkok’s last tropical sanctuary.
Bang Krachao’s abundant space and proximity to the city center have caught the eye of investors. Soaring land prices are teasing residents into selling up.
“I feel bad to sell it, but my aunt is ill. She needs the money to take care of her health,” said 62-year-old Supi Saengta, who has lived in the area her whole life, but is now selling the family’s 6,400m2 plot of land, which could fetch as much as 24 million baht (US$686,107).
More buildings mean more roads — a major change in an area where many residents still get around on a network of raised concrete footpaths that snake through the tropical foliage.
Eventually, “these paths will be knocked down and replaced by big roads which block the waterways,” said Jakkaphan Thruadmarakha, an environmental campaigner who was born in the area.
“We can already see that some of the canals are becoming stagnant and have problems with water drainage,” he added, urging future development on the wedge of land to be sustainable.
Those battling to keep the Green Lung green have some powerful backers in their corner.
Revered late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej is said to have declared his wish for Bang Krachao to be preserved for future generations. His popular daughter Princess Sirindhorn has made several visits to the area.
In the wake of Bhumibol’s death in October last year, the military government announced a plan to safeguard Bang Krachao’s wild character. The three-year scheme, which involves the Royal Forest Department, Kasetsart University and Thai oil firm PTT PLC, aims to renovate public green spaces and ensure that at least 60 percent of the area remains free from development.
The difficulty in a country such as Thailand, where land is in short supply and corruption rampant, is that developers and powerful businesses have long found ways to circumvent, or simply ignore, environmental protections.
“If we do nothing, the traditional way of life, with houses in farmland, with mangrove forest surrounding Bang Krachao, will disappear,” said Montathip Sommeechai, a lecturer in Kasetsart University’s forestry faculty.
Many of the environmental challenges facing the district have their roots in the changing lifestyles of those who live there, she said.
Whereas most residents once made their living from farming, many now just tend to their gardens in their free time, so alternative uses for the land need to be found.
Montathip hopes that by encouraging organic agriculture, Bang Krachao could become an “urban food bank” for the Thai capital.
Ecotourism is also being touted as a part of a possible sustainable future.
The sleek, eco-friendly Bangkok Tree House hotel, which opened up on the eastern bank of Bang Krachao five years ago, is leading the way with solar-powered rooms.
“An important thing is that the atmosphere here is like up-country,” 27-year-old Bangkok Tree House manager Tanaporn Wittayasiripaiboon said. “We tried to design the place to blend nature with a modern and unique style.”
Amid Bangkok’s relentless economic and demographic growth, for now Bang Krachao is a throwback to simpler times. However, it will take ingenuity and political will to keep the green lung breathing.
Gogoro Inc (睿能創意) yesterday launched its first electric bicycle, the Gogoro Eeyo 1, in Taiwan, after unveiling the bike in New York in late May and in France on Tuesday. The company said it would also introduce the series in other European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. The “Eeyo project” is the fourth of Gogoro’s eight projects that concentrate on smart transportation, which includes Gogoro’s electric scooter, battery swap system and electric scooter sharing service, company founder and chief executive officer Horace Luke (陸學森) told a media briefing in Taipei. “There are various types of city commuters. We will not
EXPERIMENTAL DRUG: While news about a COVID-19 vaccine is more eye-catching, developing a treatment would be more viable, the Senhwa boss said Senhwa Biosciences Inc (生華科) aims to raise NT$1.5 billion (US$50.57 million) by issuing 15 million new common shares in the third quarter of this year to fund the research of new drugs, including the experimental drug Silmitasertib for the treatment of COVID-19, the company said on Monday. That would be the firm’s largest fundraising effort after it raised more than NT$1.4 billion from an initial public offering on the Taipei Exchange (TPEX) in April 2017, chief financial officer Sarah Chang (張小萍) told the Taipei Times by telephone. The price of the new shares would depend on the firm’s average share price
NOT A PANACEA: Offering 5G services would not solve the problem of declining telecom incomes, chairman Sheih Chi-mau said, expecting a flat 5G telecom revenue Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) yesterday became the nation’s first telecom to debut its 5G services, offering tiered tariffs that include a threshold of NT$599 and flat rates, as it aims to switch half of its subscribers to the 5G network within three years. Subscribers would have unlimited data transmission for monthly fees starting at NT$1,399 — the same flat rate as when the company launched its 4G service in 2014 — and they can subscribe to the highest-rate plan for NT$2,699 per month for faster data transmission speeds and larger bandwidth, the company said. Data transmission speeds would be within the range
STAYING AHEAD: TSMC expects its sales this year to grow 14 to 19 percent and could spend up to US$3.52 billion on research and development, leaving its rivals far behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) reported that the US last year approved 99 percent of its patent applications, which placed the tech giant among the top patent holders in the US. In its Corporate Social Responsibility Report, TSMC said it last year secured about 3,600 patents worldwide, including more than 2,300 in the US. As of the end of last year, TSMC owned more than 39,000 patents, the report said. The company last year filed almost 6,500 patent applications worldwide and ranked among the top 10 patent applicants in the US. In Taiwan, it was the largest patent applicant for the fourth