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Thailand: Paradise Lost? Part 1.

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Thailand: Paradise Lost? Part 1. | Thaiger

by guest blogger Kent Bowie

Thailand has seen rampant tourist development and expansion over the past 25+ years, but at what cost?

Is this sustainable or even ethical?

Social media has seen an explosive growth too over the last 15+ years, and one thing that annoys many governments worldwide is how the facts and figures delivered by their own agencies often bear no resemblance to the details posted ‘live and online’ by the worldwide army of grassroots commentators and locals on site.

In fact social media is having much sway that local governments and even global corporations are being shamed into scrambling to clarify, rectify or justify areas of concern.

Not just comments by the public are now on these web-mediums, but entire films and documentaries are now made, published and shared online.

Check out this DW report about the problems of rampant tourism…

Thai tourism has more than doubled in 8 years since 2011, with 34+ million visitors a year! It is worth remembering though that it is not just tourism numbers that are causing natural destruction, more education and awareness is needed by the Thai people too.

When tourists comes, they spend, they travel, they eat, they produce waste – and not just the wrappings, litter and disposable plastic drink bottles and food cases – tourists go to the toilet, and 34+ million extra people in Thailand is a lot of extra ‘toilet’.

Currently Thailand, and particularly Phuket, are struggling with out-of-date and broken down waste disposal management. Current laws or regulations for sewage treatment and disposal are either woefully inadequate or more sadly, not even enforced. With the rampant and unabated development and construction of yet more and more condos, villas, tourist ‘leisure’ resorts and sites around Phuket, what happens to all that sewage?

Sadly, in most cases it is simply, cheaply and conveniently (for the developers) piped through to the local klongs, waterways and beaches – out of sight and out of mind maybe?

Not so much anymore though, as an army of tourists and locals are now taking photos and videos of the rampant health transgressions and are flocking in greater numbers to social media to highlight this slow and persistent poison that is killing the heart of Thai tourism.

#อย่าให้เรื่องนี้เงียบหายลงเล จากคลองบางเทาไหลลงสู่ทะเลเมื่อเช้านี้ (11/5/62) เป็นคลิปที่ชาวบ้านบางเทาบันทึกได้ ตามคลิปน้ำเสียสีดำสนิทและส่งกลิ่นเหม็นอย่างหนักจากคำบอกเล่าของนักท่องเที่ยว กำลังไหลลงทะเลตรงหน้าหาดบางเทา จังหวัดภูเก็ต งานนี้ไม่ต้องอายฝรั่งมังคุดหลอกครับ อายชาวบ้านเขาบ้าง เขาบอกว่าร้องมาหลายปีหลายครั้งแล้ว ก็ยังเฉยกันอยู่!! อย่าให้เรื่องนี้เงียบหายไหลลงทะเลไปอีกนะครับพระเดชพระคุณท่าน"เมื่อ 10 ปีที่แล้วผมเคยไปที่หน้าหาดบางเทา แล้วนั่งเรือของชาวบ้าน ไปเที่ยวเกาะแววใช้เวลาเดินทางประมาณ 15 นาทีซึ่งไม่ไกลจากฝั่งมาก เป็นเกาะเล็กๆที่มีทรัพยากรใต้ทะเลซึ่งอุดมสมบูรณ์เป็นอย่างมาก เราสามารถไปดำน้ำแบบสน็อคได้ น้ำใสเหมือนกระจก จนเห็นปลาสวยงามและปะการังกลากหลายสายพันธ์ุได้อย่างชัดเจน แต่ถ้าเล่นปลอยน้ำเสียลงทะเลแบบไม่บรรยะบรรยังแบบนี้ เกาะแววก็คงไม่เหลืออะไรแล้วแหละครับ!!"

Posted by จิตอาสา Go Eco Phuket on Friday, May 10, 2019

Would you or your family care to sit on a beach littered with plastic, bottle tops, sand soaked in raw, untreated sewage? Do you want to swim in a brown fetid slick sliding over the once pristine waves onto the beaches?

Recently posts regarding huge black pollution flowing onto Bang Tao beaches was shared via social media.

The President of Cherng Talay OrBorTor, Ma’ann Samran admitted that “90% of the businesses in the area did not treat their waste-water” which is being released into the Bang Tao canal and – you guessed it – flowing straight out to greet the tourists on the beaches.

That’s just one area. The story repeats throughout Thailand. Similar posts have been shared recently for Krabi, Jomtien and Pattaya. And it’s not just recently but over the past decade as the situation has become more common, worse and more people are posting pictures of the ugly situation.

Unless something is done, urgently, then Thailand, along with the southern tourist money-spinner, Phuket, will continue to lose tourists, especially when so many other countries are now going out of their way to welcome them.

We will look at where the tourists are now going in Part II of our article.

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Environment

Environmentalists criticise Netflix fishing doco for inaccuracies and misinformation

Maya Taylor

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Environmentalists criticise Netflix fishing doco for inaccuracies and misinformation | Thaiger
PHOTO: Alex Berger / Flickr

As Thailand accuses a Netflix documentary of using outdated and inaccurate information about the country’s fishing industry, a number of global environmental experts are echoing similar criticisms. According to a report in Coconuts, Seaspiracy has been slammed for being full of inaccuracies and twisting the science behind the damage to the world’s oceans, minimising the role of climate change and plastic pollution.

Brian Kahn, a journalist with an MA in Climate and Society, has written a piece called, Don’t Watch Netflix’s Seaspiracy, in which he also accuses the documentary of resorting to racial stereotypes.

“The bad guys are Asians, specifically Japanese whale and dolphin hunters and Chinese consumers of shark fin soup. The good guys – in this case, the experts he cites – are mostly white.”

According to the Coconuts report, the Marine Stewardship Council in London agrees the documentary contains “several inaccuracies” and the Plastic Pollution Coalition says the makers have “cherry-picked” quotes that will fit with their narrative. Marine biology magazine, Hakai, has also weighed in on the matter.

“Though the film misleads viewers with oversimplified science, its real harm is that it ignores the history, culture, and systemic inequities that are entwined with ocean conservation.”

Seaspiracy had its global release last month and has become one of the top 10 most-watched offerings on the Netflix streaming service. Opinion is divided, with many praising British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi for highlighting the issues with the global fishing industry, while others have slammed it for being biased and scientifically inaccurate.

The Royal Thai Navy has also criticised its portrayal of the country’s fishing industry, claiming it’s based on outdated information. In 2015, reporter Thapanee Eadsrichai exposed the significant role human trafficking and slavery played in the industry. This led to a crackdown of sorts, although slavery is still suspected of playing a role, on a smaller scale. The EU then threatened to ban all Thai seafood when the Kingdom’s illegal fishing practices came to light, but backed down when Thailand took steps to rectify the situation.

SOURCE: Coconuts

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Thailand

Report attributes 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand to air pollution

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Report attributes 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand to air pollution | Thaiger
Stock photo via Wikimedia Commons

According to the State of Global Air 2020 Report, around 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand, back in 2019, have been attributed to air pollution. The report cites the PM2.5 pollution particles as the main culprit as particles in that size range are the most likely to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs.

Exposure to these fine particles can cause short-term health effects, such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. But the long-term effects of being exposed to the particles is much more sinister.

Long-term exposure to PM2.5 pollution particles can affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Scientific studies have linked increases in daily PM2.5 exposure with increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, emergency department visits and deaths.

Studies also suggest that long-term exposure to fine particulate matter may be associated with increased rates of chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease. People with breathing and heart problems, children and the elderly may be more sensitive to PM2.5 particles.

In Thailand, it’s burning season in the north as farmland and forests blaze with abundance (the annual burning season usually lasts from January to April, before the wet season kicks in). Despite increasing cautions against air pollution affecting short and long-term health of residents, the fires don’t show signs of stopping. The government has even issued a no burning ban, but enforcing the ban has proved to be fruitless as such provinces in northern Thailand consist of vast forest lands.

The government helicopter team can only do so much as they set out to locate hotspots and attempt to extinguish them by dropping buckets of water. But crop burning appears to be the cheapest and fastest way to help farmers clear their lands for a new growing season.

Recently, Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Mai has ranked the 3rd most polluted city in the world, according to AirVisual, which gives live updates of rankings. Today, Chiang Mai doesn’t appear in the list of the top 10 most air-polluted cities in the world, according to iqair.com

SOURCE: Sky News/Health.ny.gov

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Environment

TAT says Phuket beaches have been “revitalised” during the pandemic

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TAT says Phuket beaches have been “revitalised” during the pandemic | Thaiger
Stock photo via Flickr

Phuket’s beaches are perhaps one of the only silver linings from the Covid pandemic, with marine life visibly rebounding after a long break from tourism, at least that’s what the Tourism Authority of Thailand says. The tourism officials say the huge reduction in tourist traffic has contributed to the Andaman Sea and coastlines becoming clearer than it has been in a long time, with local reservoirs teeming with fresh water.

But tourism officials didn’t mention the recent sea urchin phenomenon where hundreds of the red spiky sea creatures washed up on Patong Beach. A marine life expert in Phuket says wastewater being dumped in the Andaman Sea led to an algae bloom near the shoreline. Sea urchins moved to feast on the algae, but ended up getting stranded on the beach due to the tides. He says the sea urchins need to be in the ocean because they filter the water and serve as “cleaner of the sea.”

The Tourism Authority of Thailand recently released a statement, hyping up the Phuket beaches and saying the beaches have been “revitalised,” just as the island province prepares to reopen in July to vaccinated visitors.

They say Kamala Beach is still a popular destination, with a family-friendly atmosphere that offers tranquility along with snorkelling and swimming. Surin and Bangtao beaches are quieter than usual but still remain an excellent choice for those tourists who wish to partake in the nightlife and clubbing scene, according to TAT.

Mai Khao, Nai Yang, Nai Thon, and Sai Kaeo beaches, in northern Phuket, are visibly rejuvenated areas to visit as well. The 4 beaches are part of Sirinat National Park, where Olive Ridley sea turtles and Leatherneck turtles have returned during the pandemic to lay eggs. The Olive Ridley turtles were seen laying eggs on Mai Khao Beach after 20 years of no activity. The Leatherneck turtles also returned to lay eggs after 10 years of being absent.

The process to compromise between tourism and nature, started a few years ago with the beaches only allowing 10% to be consumed by vendors, umbrellas, and beach chairs. The southern beaches of Kata, Nai Han, and Kata Noi have also benefitted from the 10% vendor zone rule, as all seem to be returning to their original, pristine conditions they displayed a decade ago.

SOURCE: TAT News| Phuket News

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