With its many golden temples and its thriving culture, Bangkok has become of the most popular tourist spots in Asia. It was realized more than a decade ago, however, that the city was responsible for large carbon emissions and doing more than its fair share to promote global warming. As a result, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration took the initiative to start a city program that would reduce carbon emissions and help the environment. Because of this program, Bangkok has become one of the leading cities in Asia with eco-friendly initiatives and transformative environmental policies.
Bangkok’s Environmental Programs
Amidst the growing concerns of the past decade in regard to global warming, Bangkok observed that its greenhouse gas emissions were among some of the highest in the world. Despite its exemption from the Kyoto Protocol, the leading figures of Thailand decided it was time to make some changes to reduce the capital’s carbon emissions. The resulting program in 2007 was the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s Action Plan on Global Warming Mitigation 2007-2012. In this program there were five initiatives:
- Expand mass transit and improve traffic system
- Promote the use of renewable energy
- Improve building electricity consumption efficiency
- Improve solid waste management and wastewater treatment efficiency
- Expand park areas
Included in these initiatives are plans to expand the rail system and bus system, campaign for electricity conservation, increase efficiency in waste management, and plant trees in the metropolitan area and surrounding provincial areas. Estimates in 2007 stated that Bangkok is responsible for about 14.86 million tons of CO2 emissions from electricity, 21.18 million tons from transportation, 1.13 million tons from waste, and 5.58 million tons from other miscellaneous sources. Upon its 2012 deadline, the program aims to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 15 percent below its business-as-usual projections.
Bangkok’s environmental program had a clear effect on surrounding nations. In 2009, authorities from Bangkok joined with the leaders of three other ASEAN countries and devised a joint program called “Cool ASEAN, Green Capitals.” This program was formed with the goal of promoting proactive communities and people-centered institutions in efforts build greener infrastructure, increase green spaces, create clean water supplies, and promote other environmental initiatives with support from the World Bank.
As part of the city’s program for Global Warming Mitigation, a monthly plan was implemented that encouraged greener daily habits in community members. On the 9th day of each month, a campaign is initiated in support of a different eco-friendly action. Some of these include turning off electric lights for 15 minutes, using compact fluorescent bulbs, stopping engines while parked, planting trees, using cloth bags instead of plastic, and reducing garbage.
In 2000, Bangkok had only one square-meter per capita of green space. The Urban Greening Project was soon implemented and two communities were given assistance in planting various local fruit trees to both provide shade and bear fruit. Trees planted along a canal were able to better stabilize the banks and prevent soil erosion. The fruits produced were either consumed by families or sold in the local market.
Despite the roads of Bangkok being filled with “chronic” traffic jams, there have been several alternatives provided for transportation that have lessened the number of cars on the city roads. In addition to improving its bus system, Bangkok has an electric city tram system, the underground Bangkok Metro, and the 1,000-passenger Skytrain. This is an elevated rapid transit system that covers 55 kilometers along two lines with 32 stations. It is the most environmentally friendly public transportation system in Bangkok, and it is currently being expanded to provide access to the outlying areas of the city.
In Bangkok’s Rattanakosin, “The Old City,” a program was launched that provides bicycles for free use in the local area and only requires that they be returned by the evening. The historic town has a bike route circuit about 18 kilometers around the area with eight bike stations where visitors can stop and explore. It’s a great way for both tourists and locals to see the sights of Bangkok and avoid polluting the environment.
Building a “Green” Bangkok
These environmental initiatives of Bangkok aren’t just about improving transportation and planting trees. The hospitality industry has taken it upon itself to help the environment by running more eco-friendly businesses to benefit their customers and the earth. Bangkok is one of the world’s leading cities when it comes to green accommodations, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand has established the Green Leaf Certificate as a standard for rating hotels with eco-friendly operations. Establishments awarded this certification have proven commitment to environmental conservation and exhibited regular practices such as recycling, proper waste management, efficient use of energy and water, water management, and purchasing environmentally friendly products. In 2003, 80 hotels throughout the country received this certification. iStayGreen currently has numerous green hotels in Bankok to choose from.
Though there is still a long way to go, Bangkok has shown its commitment to follow through with the necessary steps in becoming an eco-friendly city. It has already met its goal of planting 3 million trees, and waste collection services are now above 80 percent. Companies are getting involved to promote renewable energy use like natural gas and biodiesel. Bangkok is leading Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia in a journey to cleaner living. Progress has been made, and soon the benefits will really pay off.