A riverside walkway by Kudi Chin community becomes popular among cyclists. (Photo: B.Tribune)

Chao Phraya for All?

The BMA’s grand scheme to facelift the Chao Phraya’s riversides has faced a stumbling block as the Friends of the River group opposes it

Last Thursday, the Administrative Court took a complaint against the “Chao Phraya for All” project for deliberation, to see whether it would put an injunction against it, as requested by the Friends of the River, which represents more than 30 civil organisations that oppose this Bangkok Metropolitan Administration initiated scheme aimed at facelifting the capital’s riversides.

“We, the BMA’s Public Works Department has been tasked through the Cabinet resolutions to pursue the “Chao Phraya for All”  project… with the main aim to improve and develop the riversides’ landscapes to become equally accessible for all,” said the department in an invitation letter sent to the stakeholders including the group in late December for consultation.

According to the BMA, the project, which was initiated around five years ago, saw an effort to overhaul around 60 kilometers of the riversides of the Chao Phraya in Bangkok, through feasibility studies and designs by two hired famous universities that would include a pilot project of a grand walkway and bikelane, around 14 km in length.

The group, however, viewed the effort otherwise.

According to their reasons and stances, the project would rather damage both physical and cultural characters of the riverbanks of Chao Phraya, the country’s bloodline that has fed millions of Thais and Bangkokians, and nurtured the Thai river culture and way of life.

The hard structure would rather tarnish such the river culture and way of life revolving along the riversides of the Chao Phraya for centuries, and now is competing for the status of the World Heritage, they claimed.

“Constructing the wide walkway encroaching upon the river means destroying cutural identity and history of the country. It would disconnect Thai way of life from the river, disrupting harmony and peace with the river that has long been cherished,” said the group.

The group had filed a complaint to scrap the project to the Court a few years ago as well as an injunction against it,  but the court dismissed their request for an injunction.

As rumors have swirled in the city this time that the BMA is looking for a procurement for the project, suggesting that it would go ahead with the project, the group has made another try for an injunction and appeared before the Court for the first deliberation.

The date for ruling has not yet been settled. So has the fate of the “Chao Phraya for All” that has drawn flak now, in spite of its impressive concept.

Chao Phraya for All 01, Bangkok Tribune
The Chao Phraya riverfront at Phra Sumeru Fortress, one of the city’s notable landmarks. Thais have opted for settlement by the river since the past, forming a unique way of life of the “riparian” communities. (Photo: B.Tribune)
Chao Phraya for All 02, Bangkok Tribune
Some walkways, with a few meter width, have been built on some parts of the riverbanks to facilitate communities including this aged old Kudi Chin, one of Bangkok’s iconic landmarks by the river. (Photo: B.Tribune)
Chao Phraya for All 03, Bangkok Tribune
Construction and hard structure are popping up along the river with some functions introduced such as flood protection. Such the barriers somehow have already separated people from their river. (Photo: B.Tribune)
Chao Phraya for All 04, Bangkok Tribune
Aged old Mitrkham community is said to be one of the riparian communities by the Chao Phraya set to be relocated to make way for the project. Some residents have decided to move out, leaving their history and memories behind. (Photo: B.Tribune)
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At Mitrkham, some residents still make their living by fishing in the river, reflecting how close they are to the Chao Phraya. (Photo: B.Tribune)
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Boats are still seen docked by the houses at Mitrkham, reflecting their riverine way of life.
(Photo: B.Tribune)
Chao Phraya for All 07, Bangkok Tribune
Self-made steeled diving mask with an oxygen pump is what residents in Mitrkham wear to find valuable or ancient items lost in the river. It’s one of the unique and aged old professions passed on in this community for generations. This is Jamroen who has been in this profession to make a living for more than 30 years. He said he too is about to move out to make way for the “Chao Phraya for All” project. (Photo: B.Tribune)
Chao Phraya for All 09, Bangkok Tribune
Some houses at Mitrkham  are seen dismantled. The community has claimed no land deeds but has had household registrations and electricity meters like other legitimate communities. (Photo: B.Tribune)
Chao Phraya for All 10, Bangkok Tribune
Kheaw Khai Ka is the first community relocated in 2017 to make way for the project. What is left in the area is only the sign showing the community’s name. (Photo: B.Tribune)
Chao Phraya for All 11, Bangkok Tribune
Kheaw Khai Ka had around 20 households. The residents agreed to relocate with compensation and resettlement set for them. Poles of their houses are still seen, being left standing in the water. (Photo: B.Tribune)
Chao Phraya for All 12, Bangkok Tribune
Land plots on the riversides are pricly. New public space is possible with investments in properties like malls, but not condominiums or hotels. (Photo: B.Tribune)
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Tourists enjoy the views of the river. Some spots are accessible while others are not due to unmanaged properties by the river, inspiring agencies to get them in order through the “Chao Phraya for All” project. (Photo: B.Tribune)
Chao Phraya for All 14, Bangkok Tribune
The living history and culture of Chao Phraya continues in riverside communities, despite being surrounded by hotels and restaurants, creating the unique atmosphere that tourists wish to appreciate once in their lifetime. (Photo: B.Tribune)