A blueprint for a greener Bangkok

Thai landscape architects are creating a blueprint for a greener Bangkok, partnering with government, civil society and the private sector after studies showed the Thai capital trails similar cities in public green spaces, a leading architect said last week.

City officials also announced they are building a nursery to transplant trees removed by construction of rail lines and roads in response to concerns raised by the people of the capital.

“Everyone needs a healthy city, so we’re working closely with the National Health Commission Office and brainstorming with the government, private sector and civil society to propose policy to the Health Ministry for turning Bangkok and other big urban areas into ‘Public Cities for all’,” said Yossapon Boonsom of the Thai Association of Landscape Architects (TALA).

Yossapon was speaking at the “Public City” seminar at the Association of Siamese Architects Expo 2018 held in Bangkok last week. A report was presented at the Expo that showed Bangkok’s 9.7 million people have 7.6 square yards of green space each, which is lower than 10.7 square yards the World Health Organization has said should be the minimum in urban areas.

Compared to some other capitals in the region, Bangkok is a prime example of a concrete jungle. Singapore citizens enjoy 79 square yards of public greenery per person and Kuala Lumpur’s residents have 52.6 square meters.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority is well aware of the city’s green deficit and is already attempting to create a better environment. Arom Wongmaha, director of the BMA’s Parks Department, said the city intends to add over 375 acres to the capital’s 35 existing parks this year. He said his department is getting good help from TALA and the Big Trees Project, an environmental civil society organization.

“On its own, the BMA can’t reach the WHO standard, but with the help of the private sector and civic groups, we hope we can make it together,” Arom said. “We just opened a 437-yard-long walkway linking Sirikit and Chatuchak parks to Suan Rod Fai [Railway Park] that occupies nearly 837 square yards in total. And we’re also planting more trees around the city to help keep the heat down.”

Yossapon added that, according to the WHO standards and definitions, green spaces don’t always mean trees or grass. It can also mean public spaces such as libraries and walkways. Bangkok is notorious for its lack of easily navigable sidewalks, and so the TALA has been a driving force in the creation of several elevated walkways during the past decade.

But trees are not being ignored. The BMA said last week it is building a tree nursery in Nong Chik district where nearly 4,000 trees set to be axed because of infrastructure construction will be moved before being transplanted to other areas of the city.

“The BMA has a policy to take care of trees. Our policy is that we will not let trees be cut down and die. We will have these trees transplanted to new areas where they can thrive,” deputy permanent city clerk Suwanna Jungrungrueng said last week.