According to a 2009 report, destroyed reefs now total more than 35,520 rai (14,200 acres) from a total of 96,000 rai of reef in coastal areas, reported The Nation.
Off the Andaman coast, about 50 per cent of the coral reefs covering 49,000 rai has been degraded, while some
24 per cent of 47,000 rai of reefs in the Gulf of Thailand have been destroyed.
A director of the department’s Office of Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation, Pinsak Surasawadee, said recently that coastal land developments were the main destroyers of coral reefs.
“The removal of land surfaces in coastal areas has sped up the amount of sediment flowing into the sea, affecting reefs, aquatic animals and plants,” he said. Sediment in the sea also blocks sunlight and affects the growth of coral.
“The problem is that many builders do not follow guidelines for the environmental impact assessment, which require them to construct sediment retention to prevent soil flowing into the sea,” he said.
Coral reefs around three islands in Surat Thani province, Koh Samui, Koh Phang Ngan, and Koh Tao, have
been severely damaged by a huge amount of sediment, as have those around Phuket and Koh Yao, according to a sea watch agency.
“We have discussed this problem with the department to try to find effective ways to reduce the impact from coastal development, especially in Phuket, which has areas designated for environmental protection, but law enforcement has never been implemented,” said Mr Pinsak.
He said MCRD officials now had no authority to arrest people who damaged coral reefs and marine resources.
The department wants the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning to give more power to its staff, under the 1992 Environmental Act, to arrest offenders.