Thailand to close Koh Tachai island over tourism damage

BBC 17 May 16;

Tourists were causing "irreparable damage", reports said

Thai authorities are set to close the island of Koh Tachai, saying heavy tourism is negatively affecting natural resources and the environment.

The island, off Phang Nga province, is part of the Similan National Park.

Almost all Thai marine national parks close to tourists from mid-May to mid-October for monsoon season but Tachai will not reopen, the Bangkok Post says.

The park is popular with tourists and divers - who will still have access to a few dive sites in the area.

"We have to close it to allow the rehabilitation of the environment both on the island and in the sea without being disturbed by tourism activities before the damage is beyond repair," Tunya Netithammakul, director general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation, told the Post.


Local media cited experts saying a beach on Koh Tachai could hold about 70 people, but sometimes the number of tourists was well over 1,000, along with food stalls and tour boats.

That was far in excess of the island's sustainable capacity and was causing damage that threatened to become irreversible, reports said.

Thailand draws tens of millions of tourists a year, many of them to its beautiful beaches and islands.

Paradise Lost: Other beauty spots adversely affected by tourism:

Phi Phi Islands in Thailand - since becoming the backdrop for the Hollywood film The Beach, this tropical paradise has come under increasing pressure as a result of an uncontrolled tourism boom.

Cozumel island, Mexico - this has become the world's second most popular holiday destination for cruise ships, causing huge damage to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador - the unique ecosystem on this isolated island is extremely sensitive not only to growing numbers of tourists, but to the invasive species they are bringing with them.

Steve Downing from the UK snorkelled and dived on the island last year.

"It's a miniature paradise - so long as you can get away from the crowds," he said.

"Unfortunately a lot of inexperienced snorkelers tend to ruin the fragile reef systems by bashing into the corals, poking about, trying to take the best photos of fish by feeding and chasing after fish."

"People aren't interested in preserving the wildlife, they're only interested in taking photographs," he added.


Thailand to close Koh Tachai island for indefinite period over tourism damage
Today Online 17 May 16;

BANGKOK — The shoreline, beaches and coral reefs around Koh Tachai island in the Similan National Park off Phangnga province will be off-limits to all visitors for an indefinite period, starting Oct 15, according to authorities, as reported by the Bangkok Post.

The closure aims to ease negative effects on natural resources and the environment as a result of heavy tourism activities in the Similan National Park, a natural conservation area, said Mr Tunya Netithammakul, director general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation.

The measure is part of the masterplan for marine resource management in the Andaman Sea, he added.

All marine national parks are closed from Monday to Oct 15 during the monsoon. But after Oct 15, Koh Tachai of the Similan Islands National Park will remain closed indefinitely, he said.

However, two deep dive sites in the Similan Islands remain open to divers and tourists.

“Thanks to its beauty, Koh Tachai has become a popular tourist site for both Thai and foreign tourists. This has resulted in overcrowding and the degradation of natural resources and the environment.

“We have to close it to allow the rehabilitation of the environment both on the island and in the sea without being disturbed by tourism activities before the damage is beyond repair,” said Mr Tunya.

He said since the closure of Koh Tachai was declared more than three months in advance, tourists should watch out for some tour companies which might try to sell trips to the island after Oct 15.

Assistant Professor Thon Thamrongnawasawat, deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries of Kasetsart University, said when he was a guest speaker at a tourism fair organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand on Sunday he found that 14 tour companies were still selling their tour packages to Koh Tachai.

“In fact, Koh Tachai is preserved as a primitive zone, not a tourist site. A beach on the island can hold up to 70 people. But sometimes the number of tourists was well over 1,000 on the beach, which was already crowded with food stalls and tour boats. This caused the island to quickly deteriorate. If it’s not closed now, we’ll lose Koh Tachai permanently,” he said.

Mr Panapol Cheevaserichol, chief of the Tatutao Islands National Park off Satun province, said like other marine national parks, Tarutao would be closed from May 16 to Oct 15.

As a result, all popular tourist spots including Koh Adang, Koh Rawi and Koh Hinngam, as well as diving spots have been closed.

However, Koh Lipe remains open as usual, Mr Panapol said. BANGKOK POST

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