The government's grand Chao Phraya River Promenade project has locals up in arms over its potential to marginalise the community, raise the flood risk and kindle crime.
The first problem we will face if the promenade is built is the high walkway, taller than the existing riverbank. It will entirely block our community from the river and reduce us to a dilapidated community under the riverside walkway," Sri Chaothongprong, head of the Banpun community, said yesterday. He said most residents disagreed with the riverside promenade project, as the community, which is situated on the west bank in Bang Phlat district, would be directly affected.
"The community has bonded closely with the river. Our identity and history were fostered by the river. If the promenade is built, it will destroy our community's way of life," he said.
The promenade will not help the flood-prevention effort, he said - on the contrary, at least for this neighbourhood.
"During the great flood of 2011, the riverbank dyke, which should protect us from flooding, was unable to prevent inundation. It blocked the water from flowing back to the river, which prolonged the flood period," he said.
"If a large structure like the promenade is built, I worry that it will worsen the flood situation as it will block the water flow and even slow down flood-water drainage," he said.
The high-rise promenade may also become a hangout for teenagers to drink and engage in anti-social behaviour, leading to an increasing crime rate.
"If the government wants to build a bicycle lane along the river, why don't they cut a track through the community, so the cyclists will have an opportunity to learn the community's culture and visit local heritage spots?" he said.
Wilairat Yimyam, a resident of the Kaluehabodi Temple community in the same district, said she was willing to move away from the river if authorities spoke directly to her and compensated her for relocation.
"I understand that our family has to move to let the authorities use the waterway for the project.
"I admit that my home illegally protrudes into the river, but this is because my family has no [other] place to live, so we have to live here," she said.
No one from the authorities informed the affected people about the project, she said; she learned about it mostly from the media.
Sri also said there was no public hearing or official announcement for the project at his community.
Wisut Thammawiriyawong, director of Dusit district, said the project was still under discussion by policy-makers in the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. No order has been sent to the riverside districts, so no official announcement has been issued to the public.
"There are several households in Dusit on the river, but there is no policy about them yet. However, if the riverside promenade project starts, there will be measures to relocate and compensate them fairly," he said.