Once surrounded by vast tracts of green farmland and orchards, Bangkok’s rapid expansion and urban development over the past century has turned the city into a concrete jungle.
As the capital continues to grow, some scholars have pointed out that the lack of public green space is now one of the main pressure points in Bangkok, as the city has a ratio of green space per capita below the minimum standard. , contributing to many environmental and public problems. health problems.
They said Bangkok’s new governor must build more green spaces while ensuring equal public access.
Green space dilemmas
Having sufficient and easily accessible urban green spaces is essential to ensure a good quality of life.
Assistant Professor Niramon Serisakul, director of the Urban Design and Development Center (UDDC) at Chulalongkorn University, said Bangkok has neither enough green space relative to its population nor equal access to public parks.
According to Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) data for public parks and green spaces, Bangkok has 8,922 public green spaces with a total area of 26,329 rai.
However, considering the city’s registered population of over 9 million, residents enjoy only 7.6 square meters of green space per capita, which is well below the ideal ratio of 50 m² of green space per person and even lower than the World Health Organization. Minimum WHO standard of 9 m² per person.
Despite the figures clearly showing Bangkok’s lack of green space, Assistant Professor Niramon said the real situation could be even worse.
“Based on a study by the UDDC, we noticed that the BMA’s definition of green space is too broad and inconsistent with the WHO term,” she said. “The BMA’s definition includes tiny green spaces, such as traffic islands and small private gardens.”
“These areas are not practical for public use and do not meet the WHO quality standard, so if we only count actual public green space in Bangkok, the city’s green space per capita will fall to only 3 m² per person,” she said.
The UDDC also found that the average resident of Bangkok has to travel 4.5 km to reach their nearest green space, nine times higher than the WHO standard, which recommends that people be within 300 500m from the nearest green space, she said.
She said the city’s public green spaces are also unevenly distributed across Bangkok, as many public parks are clustered in a few downtown areas, while some neighborhoods have no public green space at all.
“By extension, green spaces in Pathumwan district have 13.8 m² per person with an average access distance of 1.5 km, while 36 other districts have less than 3 m² per person on average,” he said. she declared.
“As the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet resolved and people are still suffering from the consequences of epidemics, it is even more important for Bangkok to have public green spaces,” she said.
“Having easily accessible, quality green spaces close to home can greatly improve people’s physical and mental health.”
The Thai Development Research Institute (TDRI) and UDDC released a series of policy recommendations on green spaces in Bangkok last week.
Even though securing new plots of land to develop parks is difficult in a densely populated metropolis like Bangkok, the report identified many possible ways to increase public green space in the city, including the use of land vacancies in the capital.
The BMA, he said, could use state-owned empty spaces under highways and empty land.
It could also develop green spaces on private land by working with landowners through public-private partnerships. Tax exemptions and other benefits may be given to landowners to incentivize landowners to allow their land to be used for green space.
The BMA, he said, should also change its building regulations to promote the construction of gardens above private buildings.
One gubernatorial candidate with a clear stance on solving the urban green space problem is Chatchart Sitthipha, an independent who has proposed a “15-minute park” policy.
Mr. Chatchart said the main idea behind this policy is to ensure equal access to public parks for residents.
He said the development of new public parks throughout Bangkok will allow anyone in the capital to reach a park in 15 minutes or around 800m.
“At present, Bangkok has about 1,034 public spaces used by communities,” he said. “We can transform these public spaces into quality urban green spaces for everyone.”
He also said he would provide tax benefits as an economic incentive to private landowners to encourage them to develop unused land as public green space.
Sakoltee Phattiyakul, another independent candidate, is proposing to turn vacant BMA land into small “pocket parks”.
It would also support more activities in public parks, such as water sports, to improve people’s well-being, he said.