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