A new city for Thailand?

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In today’s Bangkok Post, former Prime Minister Thaksin has introduced an idea about establishing a new city to the south of Bangkok, yes, that means by reclaiming land from the Gulf of Thailand.

It all seems very strange to me. Thailand is not exactly short on land area, I can see the argument for Hong Kong but Bangkok?

Can you explain the new city project?

In the Gulf of Thailand, the water level is relatively shallow for some 15 kilometres from the shore. We will build a dam 10 kilometres out. Beyond the dam, land will be reclaimed to another five kilometres out to help deepen the water, which will in turn help clean the ocean.

Behind the dam, land will be reclaimed to create 200,000 rai, or 300 square kilometres of new land. This will form the base of a new city.

Whatever Bangkok lacks now, we can build there. For instance, we can build a modern Asian financial centre, or a global software development centre, or a film development centre similar to India’s Bollywood. We can build new ports. Power will come from new wind farms. It will be a modern, green city.

The investment cost will be small, say 12,500 baht per square wah. If we reclaim 300,000 rai, 200,000 will be for public use and the remainder sold. Assuming a profit of 20 million baht per rai, that’s 2 trillion baht in revenue.

These profits in turn will help finance other projects, such as water management.

The reclaimed land would be up to 15 km out from the existing shoreline (10km to dam and a further 5 km thereafter),  and that the area behind the dam will have 300 square kilometers.

I’d like to know what it would look like. So based on what we know I have attempted to put those figures into a visual format.

We know that this project will feature a dam 10kms from the shoreline, so this could be an area of 30km by 10km, which would look something like this:-

OK it’s unlikely to be a box and perhaps more likely will be closer to the coast for the most part sticking to the light blue areas seen in Google Maps, but if this sticks to the 300 sqkm area that’s being discussed then this could look like this:


But I think both of these are (hopefully) unlikely because this would put this right in front of the mouths of the Chaopraya and Bangpakong Rivers, home to some of the world’s largest, majestic, and endangered species of what has come to be known as Mega Fish, the Giant Mehkong Catfish (GMC) and the Giant Freshwater Stingray (GFS).

Scientists have recently found out  “that Mekong catfish are anadromous, (moving from coastal waters into fresh waters to spawn) [this discovery] has surprised even scientist’s long-held notions of freshwater species. It may be that many other species of catfish also have similar migration habits, and that other species of freshwater fish may be found living part of their lives at sea. It certainly gives new meaning to the concept of “freshwater fish”, if they spend part of their lives living in the salty waters of a marine environment.” http://www.extremescience.com/zoom/index.php/giant-catfish

The research into these mega fish species which are unique to these waters is relatively recent, so I wonder just how much of these findings have been incorporated into the environmental impact assessment for Thaksin’s  “modern, green city”?

So where would make sense? Well perhaps here:-

Quite what this would do to the fertile ecosystem of the Mae Klong River is of course also unknown at this time. However, it is also currently home to large delicious freshwater shrimp which of course is food to the mega fish described above

However if it really is to be here, the numbers look off.  Thaksin is expecting a profit of 20,000,000 Baht per rai = 50,000 Baht per square wah, from an initial investment of 12,500 Baht / sqwah. This means the asking price for this land would be at least Baht 62,500 / sqwah or Baht 25,000,000 per rai.

I can’t quite see why anyone would pay out this sort of money for reclaimed land in this location (or indeed any of them), when there are land parcels  available at much more competitive prices closer to the capital. Land in Samut Prakarn for instance sells from 4 million / Rai (far from a main road with limited access) to  20 million / rai for land parcels with direct frontage to the  Bangna-Trad Highway.

The whole idea seems to be providing a real estate solution to a problem which doesn’t yet exist.

Whatever Bangkok lacks now, we can build there. For instance, we can build a modern Asian financial centre, or a global software development centre, or a film development centre similar to India’s Bollywood. We can build new ports.

Errrr..  who asked for a new place for a modern Asian financial centre or a global software development centre? – This is yet another example of what I call the Field of Dreams Development Philosophy (Build it and they will come).  There are plenty of places where film studios and office buildings can be built on the mainland already.

What’s needed first and foremost is support for the service sector (education, and training to up-skill the existing labour force), and especially SME’s, perhaps some sort of incubation to help these newly skilled entrepreneurs start up their own business driving demand for office space, as the growth of the service sector leads the development of the country.

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2 thoughts on “A new city for Thailand?

    maewnam said:
    July 12, 2011 at 14:16

    I fully agree that any sea reclaiming is utterly nonsense, and since it will not be done due to cost (both financial and ecological) the only one who will gain from this project are those companies which do the studies for it. Wonder who has shares in such companies… But with the looming sea water level rise due to global warming, thinking about a dike at Bangkok’s seafront is very necessary – but not to gain land from sea, simply to protect the land which is still out of water now. Samut Prakan city already gets flooded by sprint tide regularily.

    bangkokburt responded:
    August 2, 2011 at 12:49

    Interesting update to this story

    “The project would need at least 4 billion cubic metres of sand to reclaim 300,000 rai of land in the Gulf of Thailand. This would totally destroy marine biological resources in the sea, which provide food for local people, said Seri Supparathit, a director of Sirindhorn International Environmental Park’s Energy for Environment Centre”

    More here:

    http://www.nationmultimedia.com/home/2011/07/29/national/Sea-reclamation-project-wont-work-says-academic-30161433.html

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