One of the interesting things about revisiting a place you did know very well is that the developmental changes stand out clearly. I have not visited my former home in Thailand for just over 10 years and the changes are massive throughout the Bangkok area. Evidence of strong economic growth is everywhere. Rice paddies and forests have become shopping centres, shop-houses, homes and restaurants. The flow of traffic is now jamming roads 50 kilometres from the ‘centre’ of Bangkok.
The dark side of economic development in Thailand is the massive associated environmental destruction. Every residual fragment of nature in the country seems to be under attack both from rapacious developers and from poor people just trying to get by encroaching onto every inch of non-private land. I cannot help thinking that future generations of Thais will regret what is currently happening to their country. The political leaderships seem myopic and demagogic.
It is not all bad – there is evidence of enhanced environmental consciousness – but there just isn’t much of the natural environment left. The few remaining fragments of nature are subject to constant encroachment and to perverse treatment which turns native vegetation into garden with many introduced species.
I wandered around a wetland at Asian Institute of Technology today and did see the following 40 identified bird species: Little grebe; Chinese pond heron; Javan pond heron; Little egret; Great egret; Little cormorant; Great egret; Asian openbill; White breasted waterhen; Red wattled lapwing; Common kingfisher; White-throated kingfisher; Rock pigeon; Red turtle dove; Spotted dove; Ashy wood-swallow; Zebra dove; Lesser coucal; Greater coucal; Indian roller; Green bee-eater; Hoopoe; Common flameback; Barn swallow; Small mininvet; Brown-throated sunbird; Lineated barbet; Asian palm swift; Red-throated pipit; White wagtail; Black drongo; Oriental magpie robin; Artic warbler; Great reed warbler; Plain prinya; Zitting cisticola; Common tailorbird; Pied fantail; White-vented myna; Common myna plus at least another thirty or so that I could not identify.
Not a bad haul. But half the wetland has been wiped out in 10 years via encroachment and conversion of pristine wetland into rubbish dumps. It is my former environmental playground disappearing. Am I being selfish to say I feel regret?