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The View from the Top – A Mayor’s Experience with DELGOSEA

The View from the Top – A Mayor’s Experience with DELGOSEA
11/06/2012

Thailand

Interview with Mr Vichai Bandasak, the Mayor of Pakkret

Mr Mayor, the pilot city of Pakkretis well known for its efforts to involve the local community in the development of the old market. Is this people-oriented approach new for Pakkret city or did you have similar projects in the past? What are the specific benefits of involving the local population in the planning processes?

Public participation is not a new tool for Pakkret municipality. We have already in the past been keen to reach good collaboration through involving local people in the planning processes. We have, however, learnt a different, more systematic approach through taking part in the DELGOSEA project, for example using a logical framework and a logbook to plan and monitor our activities. Having a best practice city to be inspired by, also offered us shortcuts to reaching our goals. We had an example to follow and were able to avoid costly mistakes, rather than just learning by doing and making our own mistakes as we had done in the past.

We had already once, in 2005, attempted to revitalize the old market in Pakkret, but we took a top-down approach, with the local government making decisions and not involving the local people sufficiently. This led to reluctance on the side of the public to get involved, people did not feel that it was ‘their’ project, and the attempts eventually failed.

Implementing this project with DELGOSEA therefore confirmed our experience that a bottom-up approach, i.e. an approach that involves the public who are, after all, the beneficiaries of the project, leads to a stronger commitment from all stakeholders and a sense of ownership, especially amongst the old market community. It therefore offers the chance of more sustainable development.

Which strategic partners did you get on board to support the replication in Pakkret City? Who are you cooperating with and what does every partner contribute to the project?

We received support from many sides to accomplish the transfer from the best practice of Solo to our own concept for revitalizing Pakkret’s old waterfront market. These strategic partners included of course the staff and coaches of DELGOSEA, representatives of Solo, but also of other Thai municipalities, Phuket, Takuapa and KhonKhaen, who had experiences with similar projects. We also forged alliances with Thailand’s local government association, the Municipial League of Thailand, as well as the Thailand Environmental Institute (TEI) and other public sector entities: the Nonthaburi Cultural Office, the Nonthaburi Provincial Administration Office and the WatBor school. On the side of academia, Thammasart University played a strategic role. Last but not least, our most important stakeholders, Pakkret’s community foundation and community leaders were heavily involved.

The revitalization of the old waterfront requires the collaboration of various stakeholders, for example the shophouse owners, boat owners, schools, temples, nearby administrative offices, as well as the private sector.

What is the specific benefit of cooperating with the media and academia? How can they help to support the project?

The media certainly has a big role to play in reporting about the project and making the public aware that the old market is being restored and will be ready for business anytime soon. The support of academia is more in the area of collaborating with historical experts who have some in-depth understanding about the Thai-Chinese-Mons history that informs the background to the old market. Knowing more about the history will help us when formulating plans for further redevelopment of the whole area.

When you think of this project in three years time – what do you hope to have achieved by then?

Our main hope is that the restoration efforts make the old market popular again and may even lead to it becoming a major and sustainable tourist attraction in Nonthaburi province. I am also anticipating that the success of this project will motivate the local stakeholders to work together on more projects aimed at increasing sustainable cultural tourism.

What advice can you give to other mayors who would like to replicate projects from other cities? What is important to consider when taking on such a project?

There are many things to consider, but from our own experience there is one bit of important advice I could give: make sure you thoroughly research the pilot city and their cultural and political context, since it might be very different from yours. We had chosen to replicate the best practice from Solo, but realized only at the start of the actual replication process that our cultural and political context is very different from Indonesia. Luckily, we were able to travel in our country and see how the old town of Phuket had approached the restoration of their historical buildings and how Takuapa had approached a similartask. This showed us how collaboration with stakeholders was best achieved within our own country.

Most of all, however, I would like to stress how much we learnt from DELGOSEA and how useful the new approaches were that we learned through the project.


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