Heavy downpours since Thursday have continued to soak the island, and continue to highlight how much trash is still strewn along streets and in our waterways.
The torrential downpour on Thursday night saw the streets of Patong deep in floodwater, despite ongoing efforts by Patong Municipality over the past year to improve the drains network throughout the town. The culprit? Trash blocking the grates over the drains, preventing maximum flow of the deluge into pipes below.
Meanwhile over in Phuket Town workers were left to clear masses of flotsam floating in canals, causing problems of its own, with plastic waste a major factor.
The downpours in recent days have been heavier than usual, but not so unusual for October, traditionally the ‘last blast’ of the rainy season before the weather starts to clear to usher in what once used to be the tourism high season.
Trash covering the drain grates in Patong speaks for itself, in a town that is still one of the best known and most widely promoted as the key tourist town on the island. Whatever ‘Keep Patong Clean’ campaigns have been conducted there have failed.
The trash in the canals in Phuket Town comes with an extra bite. Only in July this year did Phuket City Mayor Saroj Angkanapilas fire a warning shot, urging local residents to stop dumping trash into the canals.
In both cases, no one paid any attention.
What both cases have in common is that there has been no change in attitude towards dumping trash and littering. Further, there have been no noticeable behaviour-changing consequences for people caught.
In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials and ‘Royal Volunteers’ were happy to lead the way, holding mass cleanup after cleanup, all widely publicised across government websites and social media channels.
So far the effect has exactly what could be expected. While well-meaning people continue to clean up after others, it appears to have only reinforced the attitude, ‘Why bother changing when other people are still cleaning up after me?’
However, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is now fining people dumping in canals in the capital, and even offering a reward to those whose reports lead to fines against transgressors.
The BMA now understands that without consequences for people’s aberrant behaviour, the behaviour does not change.
When will Phuket learn?