Bangkok has an intimate relationship with water. The Chao Phraya River winds its way through the city and canals — some visible, others running beneath the concrete — criss cross much of it. Not long ago these canals were the main channels of transportation, in fact. If you travel here it would be a pity not to explore the Chao Phraya a bit or even venture into some canal travel. (more on that to come!)
But unfortunately the first reaction most will have is: Holy Moses that’s some dirty water. My recent trip along the Klong Saen Saeb even left me stunned at how bad it was and I’ve been seeing its soupy filth for some time now so that’s saying something. It’s important that we all think about what we can do to improve the situation not just here but everywhere. Some donate time, others donate money, but we all can do daily little things to make anywhere a bit better. Here in Bangkok, press your hotel about whether or not they truly cut down on laundry by not washing all your towels if you don’t throw them in the tub (as all those eco signs claim in hotels). In my experience, I get new towels no matter what I do with them. Refold the used one? I don’t know. I often leave the Do Not Disturb sign up or tell the cleaning lady to just leave my room alone until I feel it needs it.
Pollution of the canals comes from nearby residents dumping waste water in. That includes hotels and other businesses however and a few residents are fighting to educate others and get the community involved to reclaim what is an important part of Bangkok culture and history. Rainstorm drainage brings in pollutants from farther away. Dump car oil in the corner of the parking lot or the street drain, and it’s heading for the canals eventually. Cut down on plastic bags (many Asian cultures love to wrap your sandwich or bottle of soda several times too many) and ask to just carry your purchase out. Cut down on plastic bottles. Buy a larger one to keep back in your room and carry a reusable container (Nalgene or the like). Just picking up the bottle someone throws on the walk and carrying it that extra 10 steps to the nearby garbage receptacle helps a tiny bit (and I make a production of it, hoping some amount of example is made).
Bangkok’s dirty. I get that. But look at how clean the Skytrain is and you know that it doesn’t HAVE to be so dirty. This is one matter where doing as the Romans do is just not acceptable. Lead by example.
This blog was written as part of Blog Action Day 2010. This year’s theme was water. Get involved. You may be thirsty some day.
CHECK OUT Change.Org and sign their petition to support UN efforts for clean drinking water.