Bangkoks malls could power entire islands

The lavish malls in Bangkok, including the newly opened high-end mall, EmQuartier, are an exclusively rich affair.
But the true cost may extend beyond Thailand’s borders. In part because of the city’s intense climate—it is one of the hottest big cities in the world—Bangkok malls and their massive air conditioning systems consume immense amounts of electricity.
The huge Siam Paragon mall consumes nearly twice as much power annually as Thailand’s entire underdeveloped Mae Hong Son province, home to about 250,000 people.
As Thailand’s natural gas supplies run low, that electricity increasingly comes from environmentally destructive dams on the Lower Mekong River, particularly in Laos. Some 240 million people in the region depend on the river for their livelihoods.
Around 30 billion baht ($929 million) is being spent on EmQuartier and two adjacent projects, the revamped Emporium mall, and the yet-to-be-built EmSphere complex.
Along with a few smaller rivals, the companies are plowing huge sums into building even more. The Mall Group is spending 30 billion baht ($929 million) on EmQuartier and two adjacent projects, the revamped Emporium mall, and the yet-to-be-built EmSphere complex.
Part of the appeal of Bangkok malls has to do with the city’s climate—for much of the year, it is simply too hot to be outdoors. The aggressively air-conditioned malls have become the de facto place for people to congregate, eat at the malls’ often excellent food courts, and take innumerable selfies.
Thailand’s rapidly growing middle class has newly disposable income to spend on such branded affairs. “Their interest in the materialism trend gave a big support to luxury goods in many categories,” Euromonitor noted in a recent report on the Thai retail sector.
And the country is also, crucially, home to a small but extremely wealthy elite. So-called “Hiso” (for High Society) Thais are major luxury spenders, accounting for the presence of the city’s Lamborghini and Ferrari dealerships and five stand-alone Prada outlets, including a huge new store at EmQuartier.
Foreign tourists, especially from China, are another important element in the mix, although arrivals have taken a hit in the wake of last year’s military coup.
 

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