Bangkok planting mangroves to protect environment

Bangkok’s governor renewed his commitment to a greener city last week, announcing that officials had successfully planted about 20 acres of mangroves in the Bang Khunthian district along Bangkok’s southern coastline in an ongoing effort to stem coastal erosion, foster the growth of wildlife and protect the capital’s environment in the face of climate change and relentless urban growth.

Some scientists have predicted that Bangkok will eventually sink into the sea because many parts of the city were built on what is essentially swampland that is too soft to bear the weight of urban development. But a more recent study released last year said that subsidence caused by human activities was the chief factor in shoreline erosion that could lead to waters from the Gulf of Thailand eventually subsuming the capital.

“Subsidence contributes to 68 percent of the current problem of shoreline erosion, along with 16 percent due to the sea level rising, 6.8 percent from a lack of sedimentation, and 2.4 percent from river delta dredging,” said Thanawat Charupongsakul, director of Thailand Global Warming Academy, which conducted the study. “These factors are all the result of human activities, especially the subsidence, which is mainly a result of urbanization of the Bangkok Metropolitan area.”

Rather than building complex man-made structures, which might actually worsen the problem, the study recommended more holistic and environmentally friendly solutions, especially replanting and restoring the mangrove forests that line Bangkok’s southern shores. Mangroves are a natural barrier against erosion while also providing breeding grounds and shelter for wildlife natural to the area.

In response, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) launched a program to replant the mangrove forests with a target of restoring 160 acres of coastline this year. The project got off to a slow start, however, because of lack of experience among some of the workers involved. Initially, about 50 percent of the mangroves planted by city workers did not survive and so needed to be replanted.

Meanwhile, the BMA said that next week a fleet of 100 natural gas busses would hit Bangkok’s streets along five routes. They are the first of 489 natural gas busses slated for delivery to the city this year.

Natural gas vehicles emit less fumes and greenhouse gasses than normal gasoline and diesel driven vehicles. While air quality in the capital has improved markedly during the past two decades, the city still suffers from some unhealthy air quality days because of extremely fine particulate matter released by vehicles and industry.

“These new buses are part of the (city’s) revival plan,” said Minister of Transport Arkhom Termpittayapaisith. “Many of the older buses have become worn out from overuse. The new buses are consistent with our overall policy to establish seamless, environmentally friendly transport for the public.”