For over a decade, Bangkok’s New World Mall has been housing approximately 3,000 fish. These fish are not part of some exotic display or planned attraction but are, in fact, swimming free in the building’s basement. The fish are a mélange of koi, catfish, carp, and tilapia. They were introduced to the mall somewhere around 2003 by local vendors.
The shopping center has been shut down since 1997 when it was determined that the top seven stories were illegally built and subsequently demolished. While the lowest four floors remain, the demolition crew had neither reason nor impetus to replace the roof. Not unsurprisingly, without a roof and open to the elements, the mall soon began to take on water. It was at this point that the abandoned building went from being an eerie reminder of illegal building practices to a breeding ground and haven for mosquitos.
Reports indicate that, in order to deal with the potentially hazardous (and certainly annoying) influx of mosquitos, local vendors introduced a number of fish to the building’s stagnant water. Between the mosquitos and occasional feedings from humans, the fish began to thrive and their population began to increase. Soon, what is now a self-sustaining aquatic population rose to the current level of approximately 3,000 fish.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has barred entry to the building since 2011 and in July 2014 officially declared the building condemned. Barricades were installed to keep out the public but still many people came to view and feed the fish.
Now, the BMA has contracted with the Fisheries Department to move the fish. Using large nets, workers began the fish removal on January 13, 2015. The fish will be relocated to a number of Thailand’s Department of Fisheries research and development labs for about three weeks before being released in a number of reservoirs, rivers, and canals. The water is scheduled to be drained from the abandoned mall and the owner, Kaew Pooktuanthong, will be required to bear the financial responsibility.
At this time, the future of the roofless and defunct shopping center is unclear. The BMA will not be replacing the roof on the structure. Demolition may be imminent but it appears to be up to the owner to decide the building’s fate. If no roof is placed over the structure and it isn’t scheduled for demolition, the 1,600 square foot lower level could potentially refill with water. Once the water is reintroduced, the mosquitos will reappear. Once the mosquitos reappear, could it possibly be long before the fish reappear as well?