June 5, 2014
A BK magazine article Saving Bang Krachao, Bangkok's green lungs chronicles efforts by activists to save Bang Krachao peninsula of Samut Prakan from developers. It presents both sides of the story with activists ( from the Big Trees Project) claiming the process of rezoning was not transparent and did not fully involve local residents, while administrators claim the new scheme is actually being implemented to prevent over-development.
Protected areas around the world are being encroached upon. People must ask themselves why there are protected areas in the first place and what sense it makes to whittle away at them. At the same time, cities are faced with the ever expanding needs and desires of its citizenry. Is it possible to both protect AND develop Bang Krachao? Possibly.
It is up to the activists to mobilize both support and talent to put forward a proposal for Bang Krachao so attractive stakeholders on either side of the debate would find it irresistible. The publicity activists would generate with such a proposal would put more pressure on developers to look at alternatives and in the process, perhaps find something that is both socially responsible and lucrative.
Turning Bang Krachao into an eco-sanctuary and promoting it as a retreat for Thais and foreigners to escape the urban sprawl of Bangkok and Samut Prakan can open up development opportunities on the edges of the peninsula while leaving the peninsula itself intact. In the meantime, the Big Tree Project is fighting a more traditional activist battle for the peninsula, hopefully buying time for others or even those within their own ranks to think of ways to encourage residents of Bang Krachao and even developers to see the value of preserving this unique green zone.
Taking cues from other projects in Bangkok, like the Bangkok Farmers Market, creating a community movement around the idea of organic farming and markets (and restaurants) could be a way of getting residents to not only preserve Bang Krachao, but fight jealously to protect it. Its unspoiled greenery would become an attraction and a benefit for their organic community movement/social enterprise.