From my house in northern Quezon City, I drive more than two hours every day to get to the office in Bonifacio Global City, which is about three cities away where I come from, and two cities away from the capital Manila. It’s a journey that should only take around half an hour under light traffic. That is a total of four hours on the road a day, if there is no road accident or bad weather. It takes me an hour longer whenever I use the public transport system. Along with hundreds of thousands of Metro Rail Transit (MRT) commuters, I have to contend with extremely long lines, slow trains, and frequent delays due to malfunctions. This has been my experience for several years. Many of us might be wondering: why have these problems persisted?
Photo © Dennis Thern
In Thailand, road accidents cause about one death every hour—but for a country of almost 70 million people, how does it fare compared to other countries?
Well, before we get to answering that; the good news for the country is that, according to Thailand Road Safety Observatory, overall road accidents, fatalities and injuries all fell roughly by a third over the past decade. But as for the bad news, the probability of crash victims becoming fatally wounded or permanently disabled is higher than ever.
However, the real bad news—despite the authorities’ efforts to prevent accidents—is that, according to the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, Thailand continues to have one of the highest rates in road fatalities. In fact, with 38 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants per year, it ranks third in the world, just behind the African countries of Eritrea and Libya, at 48.4 and 40.5 respectively.
When I was asked to produce a video about the Chiang Mai Sustainable Urban Transport Project, I thought it would be really interesting for me to see how Thailand’s second largest city had changed. The last time I visited Chiang Mai before this was 15 years ago, in the 1990s.
Chiang Mai is now very vibrant and full of potential. There is an energetic, creative buzz about it and yet it still manages to hold on to its unique heritage and identity.
Everyone who travels to Thailand will want to have Chiang Mai on their list. It’s an old city which reflects the lovely northern Thai culture and has a lot of significant history behind it. My wife and I spent our first anniversary there because it’s very nice and peaceful. Chiang Mai is a place where Thais often go to recharge and take advantage of the slower pace of life. I have started recently travelling to Chiang Mai more often for work, but even that is also pleasurable.
Chiang Mai has grown so much, and so fast. We see more and more cars in the city center. The traffic jams are becoming problematic and the public transportation issue remains an unsolved problem. To help, the World Bank is supporting the Chiang Mai Municipality's vision of promoting “green mobility” with help from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It is a small pilot project that supports non-motorized transport, such as walking and bicycling, by improving city center's walk path and bicycle lanes in the city center.
|Photo by echo0101 through a Creative Commons license|
Most of the world celebrates New Year with fireworks. In Thailand we welcome the New Year, in April, with water. During “Songkran” (Thai New Year), we pour scented water on the hands of our elders as a show of respect and to receive their blessings. It’s also a very festive celebration that’s marked by entertainment, water fights that spill into the streets, and a huge amount of people travelling by road to spend the holidays with their families and friends.
When things get out of hand, the situation becomes a recipe for disaster. During the Songkran week of 2012 alone, according to the government’s Road Safety Directing Center (pdf in Thai), there were 320 deaths and 3,320 people injured by road traffic crashes, mostly from drunk driving. Every Songkran becomes a reminder that road traffic injuries and fatalities are still a major public health and development challenge in Thailand.
Available in English
ประเทศเกือบทั่วไปในโลกฉลองปีใหม่ด้วยการจุดพลุเล่นไฟ ในประเทศไทย เรารับปีใหม่ในเดือนเมษาด้วยชุ่มช่ำของน้ำ ในเทศกาลสงกรานต์ เรามีประเพณีรดน้ำดำหัวผู้ใหญ่เพื่อแสดงความกตัญญูและความเป็นสิริมงคล แล้วยังเป็นช่วงเวลาของความสนุกสนาน ได้เล่นน้ำกันบนท้องถนน ผู้คนต่างเดินทางไปกับเพื่อนผองและครอบครัวกันเป็นจำนวนมากในวันหยุดนี้
แต่เมื่อสังสรรค์กันจนเลยเถิดไป ความสนุกก็กลายเป็นความหายนะได้ จากสถิติของศูนย์อำนวยการความปลอดภัยทางถนน (pdf) สัปดาห์สงกรานต์ปี 2555 มีผู้เสียชีวิต 320 ราย และบาดเจ็บ 3,320 ราย จากอุบัติเหตุบนท้องถนน และส่วนมากมาจากการเมาแล้วขับ ทุกๆ สงกรานต์จึงเป็นเครื่องเตือนใจว่า ประเทศไทยกำลังประสบกับปัญหาหลักในเรื่องการสาธารณสุขและการพัฒนาประเทศจากการเสียชีวิตและบาดเจ็บที่เกิดจากอุบัติเหตุทางถนน
|Dean Cira will answer some of your questions in a video|
Urbanization itself cannot guarantee economic growth, but it does appear to be an inevitable process on the way to development: no country has achieved high income status without first urbanizing, and nearly all countries become at least 50% urbanized before fully reaching middle income status.
The trick is in how to manage this process in a way that plays up the benefits and minimizes the challenges it brings.
When I was a little child, we lived in a 30m2 house in the suburbs of Hanoi, Vietnam, with intermittent supplies of power and clean water. But I enjoyed playing on the quiet and clean street in front of my house. Twenty years later, my whole neighborhood has been nicely renovated; there’s enough electricity to run all appliances in my house, including two air conditioners. But I get stuck in traffic every day on my way to work, and the smog is so thick I can hardly breathe, even with a mask on my face.
Urbanization has arrived to my hometown with both advantages and challenges. However, noises, heavy traffic, and air and water pollution are not unique to Hanoi. They can be observed in many cities in emerging countries all over the world (such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, or Nigeria). The Vietnam Urbanization Review notes that if these challenges are well managed, they will allow cities like Hanoi to retain its unique charm and livability while enjoying the benefits that urbanization brings.
Do you have any questions on how to ease traffic congestion? Or dealing with high housing prices in your city? Do you want to share your own experiences? What are your concerns when moving in or out of a city?
Our urban expert, Dean Cira, is here to answer your questions.
Send your question now using the comment function below to ask him and he’ll address on video five of all the questions received. We’ll take questions until the end of Wednesday, June 20. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by sending your questions to @worldbankasia.
Data from World Bank
|No mountains are visible beyond this pollution cloud. (Late November 2007)|
It certainly feels like the worst of winter is over for another year, well until December anyway. Daytime temperatures now reach above 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) regularly, the city’s ice sculptures have melted and the slippery footpaths have thawed, making walking in the city safer and easier. There’s also a visible improvement in Ulaanbaatar’s (UB) air quality.
On most days, from my office window, I can now see the beautiful snow-dappled mountains that surround UB; during the heavily polluted winter months the horizon is completely hidden behind a thick grey-brown smoky haze.
A couple weeks ago, blogger Chris Pablo wrote here about a project designed to get more people in the Philippines riding bicycles by creating and designating separate bike paths in Marikina City, a medium-sized city at the eastern edge of Metro Manila.
The project, which started in 2001, seems to have achieved its demonstration effect. From a survey done in 2006, the share of bike trips to all trips in the city increased to 9.5%, from 4% in 1999. Bicycle ownership also grew.
The short World Bank-produced video below gives another look at the successful project:
|It takes me just a few minutes to get to my office roughly two kilometers away. Before the Skytrain came along, the very same journey could take anywhere between 15-45 minutes.|
"I'm on the train, two stops away from you," she told the caller. "Will get there in a heartbeat."
That got me thinking. Getting somewhere in a heartbeat was – at least until 1999 – a luxury no Bangkokian could afford (unless they owned a private helicopter). I remembered when this city's traffic jams topped the list of things that would come to mind when people thought of Bangkok. (The next down in that list would probably be air pollution, but that's a subject for a later discussion!).