Deputy Mayor Verawat Khakhay told reporters May 8 that more than 3 1/3 rai of land had been cleared, making good on long-running threats to clear bridges, houses, islands and other obstacles to storm water flowing through the canal to the sea. Banglamung District Chief Sakchai Taengho had met with Pattaya officials April 8 to plan the removal of the illegal structures and, at that time, Verawat reported that a recent inspection found up to 14 households trespassing on the canal, covering about 4.5 rai of land.
Deputy Mayor Verawat Khakhay (center) announces that more than 3 1/3 rai of land illegally blocking the South Pattaya storm-drainage canal has been cleared.
On April 22, area officials moved in, using a backhoe, trucks and digging equipment near Soi Marine.
Sakchai earlier said the canal once was 8 meters wide but today, thanks to home and business owners building on the adjacent land, the canal had narrowed to an average of just 3 meters wide. He said last week that, once the land is cleared, the city plans to widen the canal to 20 meters and dredge it of natural and man-made obstacles.
As for those blocking the canal, offenders ran the gamut from private individuals to large, influential hotel and mall owners, such as the Siam Bayshore Hotel and Bali Hai Plaza.
The district chief noted that offenders were warned to removed the obstructions or face demolition. Many complied while larger groups, such as Siam Bayshore, began negotiating for time.
Sakchai pledged there would be “no exceptions” no matter the size of the business involved and, Verawat confirmed at last week’s press conference, even the big hotel is being forced to modify an island it built in the middle of the canal and remove a low-rise footbridge.
“We will make the island smaller, like a ship’s bow, so water can flow past it quickly,” the deputy mayor said. “The hotel administrators must let Pattaya City Hall design the bridge for absolute accurateness to prevent further removal, so there will be a delay in removing the old bridge, but likely will be complete within 10 days.”
Also obstructing the bridge is a bungee jump and Italian restaurant, half of which is over the canal. The city is working with the operators to move it. And private homeowner Rattawut Srimongkol, who built his entire house over the canal, has removed the entire building.
“Our work has progressed considerably with some cooperating very well while others stubbornly refused to be removed,” Verawat said. “Therefore, we had to bring in the law.”