Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) Warawut Silpa-archa, who also serves as the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, inspected the site last Thursday (Apr 15) for a briefing on what action is being taken to protect the natural landmark, which has drawn countless thousands of tourists to see the towering karst, famed for its inclusion in the classic James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun.
Joining Mr Warawut for the update was Phang Nga Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada.
MNRE Director-General Sommai Techawan explained that a team had been assembled to carry out a "SAVE Khao Tapu" mission to assess the risk of the karst collapsing.
The karst stands 31 metres tall, has a circumference of 11m and a diameter of 3.56m, he added.
Mr Sommai also explained that a “geotechnical survey” was underway, hoping to calculate the rate of erosion by use of a 3D-scan geophysical, measurements of wave undulation, marine seismic activity, an echo sounder and hydrographic surveys.
“Once the data is obtained, the team will analyse it in order to draft conservation guidelines, which may be used to strengthen and increase the stability of the foundation without losing the scenery,” Mr Sommai said.
“The use of foundation engineering techniques will help to reduce the intensity of the waves that affect the foundation. The action [taken] will be integrated with the relevant agencies and people in the area in order to keep an eye on changes that may occur in the future,” he added.
Officials became increasingly aware of the impact of marine erosion in the area after several islands “cracked” and had large sections plunge into the waters below, Mr Warawut was told.
Among the islands already well reported in the news as affected by marine erosion were the Ang Thong Islands in Surat Thani, Koh Talu in Phang Nga and Prasat Hin Phan Yot in Satun.
In October last year, a large section of the popular sightseeing karst officially called Koh Mae Urai, located two kilometers southwest of Koh Poda, between Phi Phi Island and the Krabi mainland, collapsed, sending some 30,000 tonnes of rock onto a popular coral reef below.
The area will remain sealed off for safety for at least two years.