Thai officials have prohibited visits to parts of three popular islands in the country while they review tourism’s impact with regard to the local ecology.
Ban from the Koh Kha area
The waters off Koh Khai Nai, Koh Khai Nui and Koh Khai Nok are famous for colorful coral displays. The islands are very popular with day trippers from Phuket. However, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) states that almost 80% of the reefs in the islands have become degraded. Thus, they decided to prohibit tourists from going to these islands.
Tourism’s role in these damaged ecosystems
Watcharin Na, regional chief of DMCR, told the Bangkok Post that a large amount of these corals are damaged which makes recovery difficult.
Around the world, coral reefs have suffered a mass coral bleaching which is caused by El Nino and rising temperatures from global warming.
Tourism activity is adding pressure on these ecosystems in Thailand with its 30 million tourist expectation this year.
According to Watcharin Na, the coral damage in the islands are caused by the coral bleaching process and human activity. He added that the growing number of tourists, people walking on the corals while in the water, boats anchoring on corals, catching marine animals for photos and people feeding these aquatic animals are just some of these human activities.
A minimum of 60 speedboats were going to the islands daily prior to the ban, according to the DMCR. The DMCR also closed a few of the islands’ beachfront restaurants and shops.
Possible ban on other Thai islands
According to Tom Vater from the Telegraph, other Thai islands are likely to experience the same restrictions. He mentioned that the government is surveying 40 other islands on the Andaman coast and Gulf of Thailand. The areas include Similan, Phuket, Krabi, Satun areas, Koh Samui, Koh Chang and Koh Kood. Most likely, dive sites on these islands are going to be closed.
This news comes after the Telegraph reported of a ban in Koh Tachai for visitors where tourism activities like Similan islands diving would suffer.
According to Vater, even though the country has a lot more to do, the ban will be commended by the conservationists.