Asia Minute: Thai Beaches Choose Environmentalism Over Tourism

May 27, 2016

Credit Jeff Gunn / Flickr

Last week, we told you about an island in Thailand that has been so overrun with tourists that it’s now temporarily closed to visitors. It’s a movement that appears to be growing. HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.

The island of Koh Tachai off the west coast of Thailand closed its beaches last week because tourism was harming its environment….including off-shore coral.  Now three more Thai islands are doing the same.  All of them are located near the Thai ocean front tourist center of Phuket.  The Phuket News reports beach chairs and umbrellas are being cleared this week….while restaurants and shops will be dismantled.

Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources says about 80% of the coral reefs in the area have suffered damage.  Warmer waters have led to bleaching—which weakens the coral.  Tourism has exacerbated the problem—from dive boats anchoring on coral, to people walking on reefs and—the local paper reports--catching marine animals to take pictures with them.  The department’s regional director is calling for what he describes as “environmentally friendly tourism.”

Agence France Presse quotes Thailand’s National Parks director as saying at least ten local dive spots around the islands will be closed throughout the summer and early fall.  Officials will then inspect them for signs of recovery before deciding whether to re-open the areas for peak tourist season….which starts in November.