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Phuket Opinion: Heading for self-destruction

PHUKET: The Airports of Thailand (AoT) recently reported that it expects more than 60,000 passengers a day to pass through Phuket International Airport over the New Year period. These AoT projections are based on an expected 360 flights arriving and disgorging a total 60,760 passengers every day – an increase of between 12-16% on last year’s figures.

opinion, tourism, environment, natural-resources, economics, pollution, Chinese, construction, marine, land, transport,

The Phuket News

Sunday 31 December 2017, 09:00AM

After years of public backlash against the authorities for failing to to corrective action, black wastewater continues to pool onto Surin Beach. Photo: The Phuket News
After years of public backlash against the authorities for failing to to corrective action, black wastewater continues to pool onto Surin Beach. Photo: The Phuket News

Given these numbers, it seems that the islands main industry, tourism, is thriving and growing at a rapid rate. So what is it that draws this incredible amount of tourists and expats to this little island in the south of Thailand? To paraphrase former US President Bill Clinton’s successful campaign phrase – it’s the environment, stupid.

Whether its the sandy beaches of Phuket’s west coast, or the smaller tropical islands like Koh Phi Phi, it is clear that people come here for the beaches. The most iconic promotional shots of Phuket infallibly include a clear emerald green sea lapping against a pristine beach with a longtail boat resting on the sand.

But is this postcard image really accurate as we enter 2018? Many residents and tourists would likely say no, it isn’t. As development ploughs ahead at breakneck speed, well outpacing the underlying infrastructure’s ability to cope, it’s become clear that Phuket can no longer claim to have pristine beaches and clear waters.

In fact it seems that Phuket’s natural attractions are endangered on every front: Coastal land encroachment by shady property developers and aided by corrupt officials; mangroves and forests being chopped down for wood and land acquisition; raw sewerage being pumped directly into the sea from an overworked or nonexistent wastewater treatment system; tourist boats dropping anchors on delicate corals and hordes of scuba divers and snorkellers damaging reefs; endless tons of plastic rubbish strewn about the entire island – the list goes on.

In the relentless drive for growth and wealth, Phuket has forgotten what made it an attractive place to visit in the first place – its natural beauty – and if this reckless development continues unabated we will be left with and island full of condominiums and hotels, sitting cheek by jowl, only to find that the tourists have moved on to greener pastures.

As the famous Cree Native-American saying goes: Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish been caught, and the last stream poisoned, will we realise we cannot eat money.



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Concernd | 01 January 2018 - 12:04:00

Well written: but without intensive education of the ignorant uneducated greedy Humans there will be not much success. The natural beauty of Phuket is the source of Phuket prosperity so be wise and don’t let the Golden Calf Mother Nature be destroyed by ignorance. If mankind caries on like this finely they will drown in their own faeces.

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RogerFox | 31 December 2017 - 19:08:05

Too late - things are past 'the point of no return'. The situation only gets worse from here, as it has each year for the past 30 years. Not that it really matters anyway - Farangs are an ever-smaller share of the arrivals ... and no matter how trashy and degraded the place gets, it'll be good enough for the 'others' - it's what they're used to where they come from. Chi...

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Foot | 31 December 2017 - 18:48:50

The article accurately list the environmental problems of the beaches.
But, volumes of western tourists don't come anymore because they're not welcomed.  4 years ago, they were they #1 group, led by the Swedes.  When Phuket eliminated the beach side restaurants, bars, nightclubs along with the vendors, chairs & umbrellas, the free spending westerners decided to go where this attractio...

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BenPendejo | 31 December 2017 - 11:40:35

Thank you PN for a nice terse summary of the troubling state of Phuket and the problems facing it. But unfortunately, I think that the only people that relate to what you point out are people that already fret over the rapid and ongoing degradation of this place. When you look at what is happening in Kamala, you get the sense that it is already too late. The lack of planning is killing Phuket.

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Discover Thainess | 31 December 2017 - 10:36:15

Very true, the trouble is that it appears the people gouging the money have no interest in the future, it's all about "me,me,me" and "now,now,now". This mentality can be easily seen by the way people drive. Until authorities put people in charge with a clear vision for the future and authority to enforce change this will continue. There is plenty of money to make it happen,...

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Christy Sweet | 31 December 2017 - 10:06:16

Unfortunately, the environment is all Thailand has going for it- once spoiled....And yes, I would love to get TF outta here.   I need about 1 million baht to get  my two special needs ponies back to USA on a freighter flight. I will put them down rather than leave them here. What say all my detractors chip in? I promise to never ever comment again on TPN once I leave. 

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Kurt | 31 December 2017 - 09:22:07

It is difficult to understand why the Mayor of Surin Beach still is Mayor.
Should be replaced by someone who not fiddle with a football club, buying ( where he got the money from?) and 2 years later gave it away for free (?), but instead spend his energy in environmental matters of Surin, which as beach destination is now many years already a disaster.
It is time Phuket Provincial Officials star...

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