Bangkok Transforms Tobacco Factory into Green Oasis

Breathe Easy: Bangkok’s Green Transformation Sparks Global Interest

For over fifty years, the heart of Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok, was home to a state-owned tobacco monopoly that mass-produced millions of cigarettes. However, in a remarkable transformation, the once toxic complex has now been replaced by a 102-acre green oasis, fondly known as the Benjakitti Park.

From Smoky City to Green Oasis

Replacing the cancer-inducing industrial estate with a park has introduced a much-needed breath of fresh air into Bangkok’s highly congested city center. The park’s expansion includes a mile-long elevated walkway known as the ‘Skywalk’, water-purifying wetlands, a plethora of trees, and sports facilities, to name a few. The Skywalk has become particularly popular among the city’s youth, often bustling with visitors seeking sunset selfies.

Inauguration and Impact

The park was officially inaugurated in August 2022, on the occasion of the 90th birthday of Queen Sirikit, Thailand’s queen mother. The $20 million development, which is nearly twice the size of the original park, is a rare phenomenon in densely populated Southeast Asia.

Addressing the Need for Green Spaces

With a population of 11 million, Bangkok has long been in need of more green spaces. Much like New York’s Central Park, Benjakitti is enveloped by skyscrapers and is just a few blocks away from Sukhumvit Road, one of the city’s most congested routes. This new park is a breath of fresh air in a city better known for its temples, street food, vibrant nightlife, and, recently, its marijuana shops.

Building a Sustainable Ecosystem

The park’s development was accelerated under the guidance of Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha. The military was brought in to expedite construction during the pandemic, with as many as 400 soldiers working on the project at any given time. The new park not only offers recreational spaces but has also seen the establishment of a self-sustaining ecosystem, attracting a variety of wildlife.

Greening the Urban Jungle

An innovative feature of the new park is its water purifying system. Water from a sewage-contaminated canal is pumped into a series of pools and channels where sunlight and vegetation clean it, making it suitable for irrigation within four days. The park also houses the remnants of the erstwhile tobacco factory, now converted into sports facilities, embodying a visual metaphor of the city’s green transformation.

As the world grapples with climate change, Bangkok’s transformation from a smoggy metropolis to a green oasis serves as an inspiring example for other cities. The success of this project underscores the importance of urban green spaces in mitigating the environmental impact of urbanization and improving the quality of life in densely populated cities.