The island destinations of Thailand, far from the capital, draw in tourists longing for coastal relaxation and fun. Their attractive beaches and vibrant waters are why tourists take the bus from Bangkok to Koh Tao, or to Koh Phangan or Koh Samui, all located in the Surat Thani province.
The local government is fully aware of this fact, and of the sad reality that these locations are under threat from damage, from the many tourists coming in by bus from Bangkok to Koh Tao or by plane. The islands are now banning “unfriendly activities” which damage the environment and ecology in the area. These new marine and coastal resource protection measure will be fully implemented in July of 2018, according to Chief JatupornBurutphat, Marine and Coastal Resources Department. These environmental protection measure will run for two years, and can be renewed should the need arise.
Part of the terms include the prohibiting of anchoring at a coral reef, feeding marine animals in the area, the catching of fish, and the denial of any construction or development effort that has potentially detrimental effects on marine and coastal resources. Additionally, there is also a ban on waste water discharges, as well as sea walk activity.
This is already the second time that the Marine and Coastal Resources Department exercised their authority under the terms of the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Promotion Act, written up to stop any activity that is or might be harmful to Thailand’s waters. The first time this was used was in Koh Kai in 2017, which had environmental issues thanks to a surge of tourists.
Department Chief Jatuporn said that the Department held public hearings on February, and that all the parties invited voted for these measures. The announcement was published on the Royal Gazette a month after, and will be implemented come July. Jatuporn says that, prior to that, the Department will communicate with the business operators in the islands so they could prepare for the changes.
According to the department, the marine ecology in the three region took some damage, their quality and vitality deteriorating. Notably, the islands do not have adequate systems for dealing with waste water and garbage in the area, which, the Department says, leads to about 30 tonnes of garbage piling up in Koh Tao alone.
Surasak Kanjanarat, Natural Resources and Environment Minister, says that the cooperation from the stakeholders in the area would be a big help to protecting marine and coastal resources.