Case Report


Suganya Boonprasirt
Policy and Planning Department
Bangkok Metropolitan Administration
City Hall of Bangkok Metropolis.


Bangkok has been the capital city of Thailand for more than 200 years. The metropolis of Bangkok has gradually grown up into one of the world's populated cities with a registered population of over 5.5 million and estimated actual population of up to 8 million on the 1,568 sqkm area.

The explosive growth of the urbanization of Bangkok started in the fifties and sixties. The quick rising of industrialization and economic development together with the centralization of the national government's activities are the main origins of its primacy. Until present, Bangkok continues to be the major centre of economic activities, which mainly rely on industry, trade and services.

The increase of density in the last decade was mainly due to the shocking increase of land-cost. The locations of high-rise buildings are mainly governed by the market forces making it difficult for the utility organization such as public transportation, water supply, telephone and electricity to cope with.


As mentioned earlier, the increasing density of population (due to population growth and migration) and disorderly urban settlements and together with the rapid economic development have brought an exceeding demand of infrastructure, public utilities and public services, which is unfortunately beyond the capacity of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the city administration of Bangkok, to handle alone. This results in the deterioration of urban environment, urban services and also urban quality of life.

The deterioration of the quality of life of the Bangkok residents is always raised as a topic for discussion among policy-makers, planners, administrators, academics and communities. Thus the main policies and development plans of the BMA always mainly focus on the improvement of the quality of life of the Bangkok residents in general.

The deterioration of the environment of Bangkok is considered the most important urban problem as it will gradually affect people's health day by day. The problem of traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, flooding, sewerage and water pollution and refuse collection and disposal are its clear evidence.

Although the road network is quite extensive in coverage, the transportation capacity is limited. The absence of an effective public mass transport is the basic issue of the Bangkok traffic system. Thus the fast growing number of private motor vehicles confirms Bangkok as "Permanent Traffic Congestion".

The location of the Bangkok Metropolitan area is at the deltaic plain of the Chao Phraya River estuary has made the city and the surroundings particularly vulnerable to flood. Much of the city areas and the suburbs are as low as mean sea level. However, the flood hazard in Bangkok is not only a natural occurrence but also results from the urbanization and the utilization of natural resources. The groundwater consumption in the growing suburbs is one example which partly causes land subsidence. The sewerage and water pollution in the city of Bangkok is now getting more serious as a result of having no sewerage system except some community treatment plants constructed by the National Housing Authority and small institutions such as hotels and department-store buildings. The city is building six central treatment plants to cover the major economic areas. It will take sometime for the construction but the operation and maintenance are still in serious consideration as it will cost a large amount of the city's budget.

The collection and transportation of the refuse to the disposal sites is the main problem of Bangkok. The widely spreading urban fringe and traffic congestion contribute to garbage collection problem. Moreover, there is a little open space left for sanitary landfill in Bangkok. For disposal, the present system of compost-plants and sanitary landfill (5,000 ton/day) cannot cope with the amount of garbage collection (7,000 ton/day) each day. It still needs a better disposal system, such as incineration which also costs a big investment.

It is not a very long time ago that the city of Bangkok has realized that the origin of all problems mentioned above, is the lack of the systematic city planning and city development. The pattern of human settlements in Bangkok is controlled by business private sectors in stead of the Master Plan of the city of Bangkok. Thus the subject of planning is quite an obvious problem.


In terms of administration, at present, the Bangkok metropolitan Administration (BMA) is organized in accordance with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Act 1985, as the sole organization at the local authority level, responsible for the wellbeings of the Bangkok residents with some financial support from the national government. The BMA has to directly report their work performance to the Minister of Interior. According to the Act, the BMA is comprised of the Governor and the Bangkok Metropolitan Assembly. The Governor is the chief of the city administration who is elected by popular vote for four-year term. The Bangkok Metropolitan Assembly is the legislative body, comprising of elected members. Currently, there are 55 assemblymen. At the district level, district councilors of at least 7 persons each district, are also elected. Both has a four-year term.

The existing institutional framework of the BMA is divided into 3 offices, 14 departments and 38 district offices (see figure 1).

All the agencies under the BMA are designed according to their responsibilities. In general, Department is responsible for planning, management, supervision and evaluation whereas District Office operates field work.

The present city administration is now facing some constraints on urban planning and urban management. There are 27 functions specified by laws that the BMA has to be responsible whereas the authority and the institutional framework do not allow the BMA to do so. The BMA has limited authorities to handle its own responsibilities. The linkage between the national government and the BMA is not clear in terms of devolution of power or decentralization. At present, many issues related to the BMA's responsibilities, authorities and subsidies are frequently debated among all agencies concerned such as the National Government, the Ministry of Interior, other agencies and the BMA itself.



As mentioned earlier, one of the critical issues of the city of Bangkok is planning. The BMA has just realized since the last five year that effective development planning is imperative to establish Bangkok as a modern and functional city which adheres to acceptable standards of environmental quality and sustainability. Unplanned urban growth is proved unsustainable. What actually had already happened in Bangkok was the uncontrolled growth especially in the suburbs. The present Master Plan 1992 could not stop the fast-growing economic activities of the private entrepreneurs as it lacks of planning standards and development control measures. Moreover, the enforcement of the Plan is rather weak and inappropriate.

Considerable efforts have been undertaken by the BMA to lay the foundation for developing an effective urban planning system. Over the last five years, a series of planning, environmental and transportation studies have been carried out with the collective and ultimate objective of making Bangkok a healthier, more attractive and effective city in which to live and work. The studies of MIT, EC and NESDB have confirmed the necessity of the New Master Plan 1997 which should specify long-term visions for the city like Bangkok and prepare for the high speed of city's growth. All of these studies provide recommendations and a wide range of choices and long-term visions. The BMA is now reviewing, analyzing and translating them into strategic aims and operational objectives, which will be the main components of The New Master Plan 1997 (See figure 2), being prepared by the Department of City Planning with the technical assistance of the outside consultants from the MIT and EC team. The BMA is pushing all efforts to its plan-making so that the future human settlements will be more sustainable. The reorganization of planning agencies; both the Department of City Planning and Department of Policy and Planning, is the first priority that BMA tries to improve the planning system. Then the training of planning officers in both departments is putting in place. Although planning is multi-disciplinary task, planning background by education is still required for most of the planning staffs. Unfortunately, most of them graduate social sciences with little knowledge of planning. Thus training can be, at least, the answer of the urgent need of professional planners in both departments of planning of the BMA.


People's participation has been defined as the local involvement of citizens with development agencies in selecting programmes and activities, setting priorities and carrying out the projects as partners. It becomes a necessity to ensure people's participation by the contribution of their ideas, interests, labour and time. People's participation can be encouraged by the following means; public meetings, public hearing, surveys, appointments of representatives of community organizations and particular groups.

It was found from the evaluation of the Fourth BMA Five-Year Development Plan (1992-1996) that the failure of the implementation of many development projects was partly due to the lack of people's participation. The BMA lacked people's participation in the planning process at all levels of planning; city level, district level and community level. The Bangkok residents had a very little information about any development projects by government agencies undertaken in the area of Bangkok for the last five years. They had no opportunity to determine their needs, give their ideas and show their interests

. Now the BMA is trying very hard to provide opportunities for the Bangkok residents to have access to planning information, to directly involve in the planning, implementation and evaluation of the Fifth Five-year Development Plan (1997-2001). They could determine the future of the city where they live, through public media, public meetings and public hearing (for the big projects affected by a large population) and also the appointment of local representatives.


The metropolitan of Bangkok is expanding rapidly. The authority is facing great task of providing the necessary infrastructure and services to support the social and economic needs of the population. The coverage of responsibility is very large but the budget available is not adequate for every need. The BMA currently spends about 2,000 million baht for the investment of infrastructures annually. This amount is very little when compared with the 1,568 sqkm area and the 8 million population. The city will definitely need to increase the annual revenue and the budget level. The BMA is currently asking the national government for approval on more sources of tax collection such as property tax, user charges tax, and land readjustment tax. However, the improvement of administrative mechanism and the process of negotiation will take a long time to accomplish. Therefore, an extensive increase of the private activities in the infrastructural provision should be a viable alternative.

The BMA is lawfully allowed to venture jointly with a private investor to provide services to the population. The prevailing situation indicates that the existing planning and funding system will not be adequate for the rapid growth of the city. It would be beneficial for the BMA as a whole if the private sectors directly contribute by direct undertakings in the infrastructural provision. The BMA now encourages the private sectors to invest in its development projects by giving incentives about tax collection and other privileges. The privatization policy is currently enhanced by the BMA, however it needs administrative resource and mechanism to support. As the privatization policy is a large scale policy which can probably help to sustain the city development. But the BMA still lacks of expertises, it is necessary to start off with training the BMA officials about privatizing public services and preparing appropriate organization and legislation for handling privatized projects.

If privatization can be the answer of the financial problem, the government has to support this policy by facilitating legislation process of revenue collection, limiting the centralization of government activities an ensuring private sectors of a clear and sustainable policy for infrastructure provision. This could be the subject of urban management for the next decade and the BMA now gives all initiatives for this issue.

In the modern theory of urban planning, public-private cooperation is substantiate for the city planning and development. The BMA is establishing an organization so called "Bangkok's Public-Private Cooperation Council" with the main purpose of strengthening the cooperation especially from private sectors including NGOs who are usually active in the activities of city, district and community development. This organization will comprise of Bangkok residents such as academics, businessmen, administrators, politicians, community representatives, social workers and all walks of life, who can contribute their ideas, experiences, resources, labour and time to the BMA without any concern of individual's interest.

The BMA aims to use this organization as the channel for the Bangkok residents to give direct access in the city's planning and development



Bangkok is an excellent case study of sustainable planning and development. The issue of urban environmental and social development always challenge many professional planners, planning consultants and professional management teams from all over the world. However, the subject of sustainable planning and development still falls into the BMA's own responsibility. The future of Bangkok is determined by the city administration and the Bangkok residents. The question of sustainability is, in fact, the main task of the city administration in the next decade. How to develop Bangkok, one of the fast-growing cities, to be sustainable and livable while economic and social development activities can compensate each other, and physical and environmental development are always sustained, is a challenging function of the ones who responsible for the city's planning and development.

Fujisawa/Saarbrücken/Bangkok/Gulu/Luisville and Jefferson County/Ratnapura/jerusalem/Portland/La Ceiba/Shenyang