Given that I’ve spent the last 3 months in Thailand, I thought it would only be right to investigate their sustainability measures and progress. Being stuck in traffic for 2 hours for a journey covering only a handful of miles, it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees. Yet this is the reality for millions of Thais on their daily commute – especially in the capital Bangkok.
Bangkok is a city with an estimated 6.8 million cars. That’s a lot of traffic by any standards. However, in a city designed to cater for only 2 million vehicles the result is gridlock. Matters were not helped by the recent government scheme giving tax refunds of up to 100,000 THB (approx. £2,000) to first time buyers. The incentive which recently expired added a further 500,000 vehicles to the mix with tax refunds of 30 billion THB.
With the price of cars so high in Thailand (taxes account for over 40% of the list price), the government incentive has helped many Thai youngsters get on the transport ladder. To give an idea of comparison the cheapest BMW on the market comes in at pennies short of £40,000. It is no wonder that the incentives are being compared to the UK property help to buy scheme.
As mentioned, being stuck in traffic it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. But the reality isn’t all doom and gloom. The average car in Thailand is modern, technologically advanced and most importantly economical. Bangkok is the land of the hybrid with a number of models being offered from competing manufacturers. The government incentive is limited to cars under the 1.5l range rather than encompassing the larger gas guzzlers. As a result the 500,000 vehicles added to the mix are relatively economical. The deal also takes the younger generation away from borrowing a 90s gas guzzler from family.
Elsewhere on the roads of Bangkok the legions of taxis and infamous tuk tuks have long been predominantly LPG. Gone are the days when tuk tuks caused a smog canopy around any major tourist attraction. In recent years taxis have become even more environmentally friendly with a swap to NGV, an option taken up by an increasing number of drivers.
While it seems all 6.8 million cars in Bangkok are trying to go in the same direction as where I’m heading, the recent changes show at the very least, initial steps towards sustainability efforts.