Walking St. businesses balk at paying to clean up their continuing pollution

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Walking Street business owners are balking at paying for a new sewer system, saying the money to fix the pollution problem they are causing would be wasted if the government ever enforces the long-standing demolition order against them for encroaching on public land.

A meeting between the 101 business operators and Wirath Jirasripraitoon of the Pattaya Sanitation Department at Pattaya School 8 broke down in acrimony Sept. 8 with shouting and arguing preventing anything from being decided. A follow-up meeting was scheduled for Sept. 12.

At issue is a city demand that businesses – cited eight months ago for inadequate or nonexistent sewage management – foot part of the bill to install a new system under the nightlife strip.

Pattaya will pay 31.5 million baht of the cost, while businesses will pick up the tab to install “hanger supports” spaced out about every five buildings. Each support would connect sewage pipes to a pit that can hold up to 1,500 liters of wastewater.

There sewage will then be pre-processed before being sent to the city’s main treatment plant.

The reason the 101 entrepreneurs object to putting their hands in their pockets is that all of them are under the gun: For more than 20 years, they’ve been told their buildings on the water-side of Walking Street illegally sit on public beachfront and must be demolished.

The most-recent plan – last mentioned in December – would be to redevelop half of Walking Street into a public park. But the 101 property owners, appearing at a public hearing, appeared to scuttle the plan, presenting rafts of documents they claim are legal property and land deeds and demanding their authenticity be investigated before any further action on the redevelopment plan occurs.

It’s a familiar scenario.

As early as 1988, consultant Japan International Cooperation Agency determined that all the structures were encroaching on public land and should be demolished. A royal decree on land expropriation issued April 17, 2014 confirmed the findings of the 1998 JICA report. In May 2015, then-Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh said 12 Walking Street buildings had been ordered demolished for illegally extending their property. The property owners were given a chance to appeal and the order was never mentioned again.

While demolition appears unlikely to ever happen, that didn’t stop the business owners from trotting it out as a stalking horse to prevent them from spending any of their own money to fix the pollution problems they’ve been causing for decades.

In January, all 101 operators were cited by the military for improper wastewater management, with at least one of the go-go bars and restaurants there dumping untreated sewage directly into Pattaya Bay.