A getaway holiday isle can worry about trash and plastic bags all it wants, but without water you can forget the whole idea of getting tourists to come at all.
You couldn’t create a better definition of “unsustainable practices” if you tried… and yes, the tourism powers that be actually pushed for this. They wanted more tourists, they got them – and with that they got all the people coming to Phuket for jobs to serve those tourists, and all the people who moved here to make a living by providing services for all the now resident workers, and thus becoming residents themselves – all needing water for their daily lives.
Officials were already well aware of the problem, watching the water levels at reservoirs sink month by month – as if wondering where the water was going.
They knew we were running out of water years ago, that’s why the Khlong Kratha reservoir was built over the past six years, and the proposed pipeline feeding Phuket from the Cheow Lan Lake, in Khao Sok National Park in Phang Nga, has been repeatedly proposed for nigh on two decades.
Even then, when less-than-publicly-liked MaAnn Samran, Chief of the Cherng Talay Tambon Administration Organisation late last month had the guts to introduce water rations for residents and local businesses in Cherng Talay, all that Thamdongrak Kumphet, the PWA official responsible for water supply, could offer was a flat denial that the PWA had called for any rationing of water supply.
Initially, no one stepped forward to claim responsibility for announcing the planned water restrictions across large areas of Phuket, which were scrapped at the last minute.
Given the level of honesty among the island’s so-called leading officials, it comes as no surprise. It’s not as if they have any authority to allocate budgets to actually develop infrastructure. That blame – or “responsibility” – has long been in the hands of invisible forces in Bangkok.
The water crisis comes as half a million tourists are to land on the island for Chinese New Year, though we expect them to be well catered to if any water rationing does occur. The first people that were to be hit are in main residential areas.
But what do officials think will happen when residents run out of water? They’ll do what they’ve always done – call in the water trucks. And where will that water come from? Our ever-diminishing natural water catchments across the island, which are becoming more scarce.
And all this in a week when Tourism Authority of Thailand Phuket office chief proudly announced that the Chinese New Year festival alone will generate up to B12 billion in revenues. Is there any chance of splashing some of that cash on our ever-growing water needs?