There was nothing any officials could do to disguise this week’s recurrence of the annual “bloom”, when there is no surly southwest monsoon to flush the bay out. There it was being washed ashore in a great mass for all to see.
Dr Jiraporn Charoenvattanaporn, a marine biologist who specialises in the study of phytoplankton diversity and red tide phenomena at the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), said plainly that the “seaweed” was pulled from its roots on the coastal seabed and washed up by strong waves. Only one problem with that: we’ve had no strong waves since Pabuk passed weeks ago.
There was no mention of algae, no mention of elevated levels of phospherous and nitrogen – as if to blind us with science that we don’t know what feces breaks down into once in water – and certainly no mention of the filthy Pak Bang Canal that runs through the town and empties into Patong Bay at the southern end of the beach, right where the “seaweed” was found.
Dear Dr Jiraporn, it’s not the seaweed that we’re worried about – it’s the state of the water that prompted the “seaweed” to flourish. In a country full of farmers, everyone knows what helps a plant to grow.
We do feel sorry for Dr Jiraporn though, to put her credentials publicly on the line for the sake of others who refuse to stand up and be held accountable for at least being honest. It is not her place to stand up and explain why untreated wastewater continues to flow.
To wit, Patong Municipality, the Pollution Control Department, the local Environment office, the Marine Department, Patong Municipality or even the mighty Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) all have NEVER confirmed that the raw untreated sewage from the canal – which most hotels in the busy tourist town dump into – no longer flows into the bay.
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: World-class destinations have the same problems; it’s what they do about it that makes the difference. Only just last week Hawaii closed 10 beaches due to excessive bacteria found in the beach water there. That’s all it takes to actually do something about it: either having a conscience or a legally enforced duty of care.
We all know what is happening at Patong Beach and with all the hotels, guesthouses and other businesses that are dumping into the canal. Is just a modicum of honesty too much to ask for when confronting this issue?