126th Meeting – October 1994

A Vision of Chiang Mai

A talk by Sirichai Narumit

Ajaan Sirichai told of Chiang Mai past [loved], present [raped] and future [hopefully, a marriage of love]. "This city used to be so charming, so well known for its quality." 1996 will be Chiang Mai's 700th anniversary, and these are today's statistics:

·        Urban population = 200,000, with 30% commuting from outside the city

·        Vehicles in Chiang Mai & adjacent districts: cars = 90,000; motorcycles = 370,000; buses [regular & mini] = 1,000

·        Garbage produced daily = 250 tons   Garbage collected daily = 100 tons

·        Residents with city water supply available = 40%. Waste water treatment facilities = 0%

·        Land area utilized as "public green area" =1%

Up to 50 years ago, Chiang Mai was medieval, with a fine climate. Now only the city administration is medieval. Commencing 30 years ago, Chiang Mai began assuming new roles, which led to today's problems, roles as the Northern center of: transport & communications; public administration; tourism & related services; education; commerce; finance [52 banks in the urban area alone]; medical care; and employment. Today, Chiang Mai is faced with a number of serious prob­lems: air & water pollution [7 spots in the city have unsafe levels, including the Municipal Office compound]; traffic congestion; poor garbage disposal; and socio-cultural degradation.

Solutions proposed and under review include:

·        Reduction of urban growth.

·        Decentralization within the city itself, e.g. establishment of a new satellite city, upgrading of adjacent districts.

·        Selective & sustainable development, especially energy saving and recycling. Someone remarked that the Kad Suan Kaew complex on Huay Kaew Road uses more electricity than the entire town of Lamphun.

·        Mass transportation - underground within the old city and surface level outside. Six optional schemes have been proposed, focusing on the preservation of the cultural heritage.

In summary, "Chiang Mai should be­come greener and cleaner." It should con­serve local culture, but create a new identity as well. Following Ajaan Sirichai’s talk, there was spirited agreement and discussion from the audi­ence. It was also noted that during the ASEAN meeting in Chiang Mai in September [at the height of the floods and buoyant garbage], eleven NGOs presented the Prime Minister with a petition requesting strong administrative action to improve the situation here. The petition is being “considered”. In addition, the speaker recommended that the Informal Northern Thai Group expand its role, campaigning for the environment as well as hosting academic talks. "Stand up and be counted", he concluded.