Why is there a Canal in Bangkok ? Bangkok was a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom. It came to the forefront of Thailand when it was given the status as the capital city in 1768 after the burning of Ayutthaya, the former capital of Siam, the now called Thailand. The canals in Bangkok were vital to it’s economy - especially in it’s past when trade was the key to success and water transportaion was the most efficient mode of transporting goods and people around. Fundamentally, Bangkok became the capital city partially due to it’s strong nodal point characteristics. ( CLOSE TO SEA = EASY TRADING/TRANSPORT ) Ayutthaya, 1700’s Bangkok, 2009 =>
An elaborate network of canals known as khlongs gave Bangkok the nickname "Venice of the East" at a time when most transportation was by boat.
Today, nearly all of the canals have been filled in and converted into streets.
While many khlongs still exist with people living along them and markets often being operated along the banks, most are severely polluted - Such as Bang Bua canal.
A little background on the upgrading of Bang Bua canal .
About 3,400 families live in the 12 informal settlements which line the 13 kilometre stretch of Bangkok Bang Bua Canal, many of them vendors, laborers and daily-wage workers.
After almost a century of living in insecurity, with the daily risk of fires and eviction, and facing constant accusations of polluting the canal, the people living along the Bang Bua canal joined hands with the Baan Mankong Program to upgrade their communities.
“ We were a real slum before! There were drugs for sale, and lots of outside organizations did their drugs trading here. There were kids sniffing glue and paint thinner.”
“ Back then, a lot of the houses were built on stilts right over the canal, and when one of these houses would collapse - which happened a lot - we would say, th at is your problem, not mine!”
Old Housing ~ < This was what the houses along Bang Bua looked like prior to renovation. Entire families had to live in one of these shacks ! There are many valid reasons for these houses to be replanned and rebuilt. Some reasons include :-
Inadequate space for an acceptable standard of living
Prone to flash floods during monsoon season
Extremely poor sanitation system
Atmosphere was a breeding ground for crime related deeds.
Poor safety for residents in terms of access to public protection (FIRE brigade)
Low levels of community spirit and sense of belonging.
Houses are aesthetically unattractive, creating low esteem levels amongst locals.
1. To solve housing, environmental and tenure problems in the country's already-existing slums.
2. To create housing security for all of Thailand's urban poor.
3. To develop systems to deliver basic services to poor settlements as a basic right.
4. To construct secure and "livable" dwellings and settlements for all the country's urban poor.
5. To link the process of developing secure housing and settlements with a larger and more comprehensive process of community development, which encompasses other aspects such as economics, environment and health.
6. Community people and community networks will be the main implementers of the program, with the support of local development organizations
7. The housing and community development plans in each city will be developed in close connection with other areas of community development.
8. Central organizations will support local community organizations and the local mechanism through the distribution of budgets.
The Bang Bua canal is a large canal in the northern part of Bangkok, which used to be used for boat transport through the city
This is the first case in Bangkok where all the communities along a major canal have come together, formed a network and developed their own plans for redeveloping the whole area: housing, infrastructure, environment, canal water quality, etc…
Eventually, all the families will rebuild their houses, according to the redevelopment plans, except for five very poor families, who don't want to take on any debts, who will stay in their old houses.
People in the community will no longer be afraid of being evicted – by city officials, by government plans or by fire. They feel like nobody can kick them out from this place, because now they have long-term lease for the land.