PHUKET CITY: The Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA) and Phuket Province will hold a public hearing on Thursday, May 29 to gauge local response to the plan to move forward with the Ao Phuket megaproject, a 100-million-baht marina and convention center on 3,000 rai of reclaimed land in Phuket Bay.
The meeting has been moved up one day from its previously scheduled date of May 30.
Invitations to attend were faxed by the Phuket Provincial Office to numerous local government agencies, private business groups and social organizations, including the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, Council of Phuket Industries, Phuket Tourist Association, Phuket Reporters Club, Phuket Bankers Association, local chapters of the Rotary and Lions clubs, and various environmental protection and sustainable tourism advocacy groups. The general public is welcome.
At the meeting DASTA representatives will explain and discuss the details of the project, including its advantages and disadvantages.
When asked about the project by the Gazette, biologist Kanjana Adulyanukosol of the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) said she was not aware of the upcoming hearing, but thought that some of her colleagues at the PMBC would attend to discuss the potential environmental impacts of the scheme.
K. Kanjana, Thailand’s leading researcher on the endangered dugong population in Phang Nga Bay, said there had been recent but sporadic sightings of dugong in Phuket Bay, which is part of the dugong’s normal migration route along the island’s west coast. The marine mammals feed almost exclusively on seagrass.
According to her own surveys, dugong still migrate from Pa Khlok to as far south as Koh Taphao Yai at the south end of Phuket Bay – and sometimes further south into Chalong Bay.
“In the past Phuket Bay had seagrass beds. I am not sure not sure how good they were, but much better than they are now. Silt and clay from sea tin mining caused the sea bottom to harden and many species of seagrasses in the area died out as a result,” she said.
“Nowadays there are only small patches of one or two seagrass species in Phuket Bay, at the south end off the coast near the Ao Num Bor School in Wichit municipality,” she said.
K. Kanjana last surveyed the area about 10 years ago with seagrass expert and PMBC colleague Sombat Poovachiranon, who said at the time that these few remaining seagrass beds might not survive with an increase in sedimentation in Phuket Bay.
Although unfamiliar with the exact details of the project, K. Kanjana doubted that the high-ranking politicians pushing for it had a true understanding of “environmentally sustainable” tourism – or what the project’s real environmental ramifications would be.
They are probably more focused on short-term economic benefits, she said.
The hearing will be held in the Jamjuree Room at the Phuket Merlin Hotel, starting at 1:30 pm.
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