As of the Sunday before Christmas, December 25, 2002, the
Silom Walking Street project was brought to a close. Leisurely meandering
down this road in the heart of Bangkok’s business district is now a thing
of the past, as the outdoor fun activities for the public will no longer be
held on a regular basis.
The authorities concerned decided to cancel the project
after a study by the National Energy Policy Office (Nepo) suggested the
disadvantages of the project outweighed the advantages. The results of the
study said the project had failed in all aspects, except that it allowed
people additional public space.
Former deputy prime minister Pitak Intrawitayanunt, who
chaired the Nepo board, launched the project with the intent of reducing
pollution, conserving energy by encouraging people to use public
transportation, boosting tourism and offering the public a new
family-oriented recreation spot every Sunday.
Supported by an annual budget of 30 million baht, Silom
Road ‘Walking Street’ became a source of fun-filled outdoor activities
from midday till midnight every Sunday. In a move to boost tourism, two
large stages were set up to highlight shows following a different weekly
theme, and to add to the fun plenty of smaller platforms were also available
for the general public to show off their talents.
The activities attracted at least 30,000 visitors every
week, and with special events on certain Sundays the number of visitors
sometimes totaled 100,000.
During its first six months the scheme received
overwhelming approval, thanks to the variety of performances, vendors
offering local products and its image as an energy conservation scheme. But
towards the end, creative activities aimed at boosting tourism fizzled out
and were replaced mainly by vendors who charged outrageous prices and
attracted gangs of extortionists.
Opposition to the project gained momentum and the
government finally cancelled the project. Silom Road’s Walking Street
project lasted just 56 weeks.
Silom-based business operators and residents from Bang
Rak District led the opposition, citing excessive noise, uncollected garbage
and traffic congestion in the area. Pollution increased in adjoining areas.
Local residents complained about lack of mobility.
Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Juthamas said the
project did not achieve its tourism promotion goals because activities
lacked unique charm. “Most visitors were students and shoppers,” she
Juthamas also acknowledged that the project had failed in
terms of energy conservation, noise pollution and garbage. “We may
consider offering similar activities elsewhere, but we will have to select
the site more carefully,” she added. (TNA)