Connect with us

Thai Life

Blots on the landscape

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: I recently flew from Bangkok to Phuket. Soaring high above this city of 12 million souls, a sprawling conurbation of concrete buildings, bisected by modern expressways and crisscrossed by venerable canal systems, we headed out toward the Gulf of Thailand where the black waters of the Chao Phraya river disgorge into the blue sea. Blue only until you looked down to where the estuary met the ocean.

There, in a huge arc, was an insidious, brown-black stain spewing far out into the bay. Less dramatic, but nonetheless evident as we headed south was the human impact on the shoreline – sparse colonies of mangrove a stark reminder that most of this natural and richly bio-diverse barrier twixt sea and land had gone, a victim of human encroachment at the ocean’s edge and a continuing problem on Phuket’s eastern littoral. And while here the sea was not stained the color of deep ocher, there was a telltale band of brown, polluted water bordering these coastal communities.

Only where there was no evidence of human habitation was the seat its cerulean best: no discharge of wastewater, no irrigation systems leaching waterborne chemicals into the ocean and causing eutrification and worse. People equals pollution.

As we moved south past Hua Hin, the landscape greened perceptibly – for this is an area of heavy rainfall – with hills clad in evergreen trees, looking for all the world at 35,000 feet like florets of broccoli. Only one disturbing note: in places, the uplands had been gouged by quarrying, leaving bare red scars on the lush woodland.

imageHow much more pleasant to drive past a section of motorway where avenues of crape myrtles, cork trees and alstonias were still very much in evidence, graceful reminders of an older and more eco-friendly vision. Photo: Gangulybiswarup

Flying directly south, we passed Koh Samui and its smaller companion Koh Pha Ngan, both shrouded in cotton-wool, cumulus clouds, crossed the mainland and began our descent over Ao Phang Nga. This spectacular bay is surely one of the natural wonders of the world: forty or more verdant islands, many of them limestone karsts with precipitous cliffs miraculously topped by trees, dotted randomly in the translucent ocean. In the shallow waters nearby were areas where the pristine sea revealed the presence of coral colonies, while the beaches and coves were fringed by trees, the last remaining outposts of primary mangrove swamp in the whole of Thailand. Touchdown took us past floating villages and oyster farms, rectangular shrimp ponds and rows of casuarinas.

On terra firma and driving south, I noticed how the sugar palms, which had long since replaced the flowering crape myrtles and millingtonias, still dominated the median strip. But past Thalang, many of these palmyras were struggling: brown, sere fronds and stout, knobbly trunks with only a defiant sprout of leaves at the top of the tree. Some, presumably already dead, had been removed. One could only conjecture that here, faced with much denser traffic and a hostile atmosphere, they had been unable to contend with the unremittingly high levels of exhaust fumes. How much more pleasant to drive past a section of motorway where avenues of crape myrtles, cork trees and alstonias were still very much in evidence, graceful reminders of an older and more eco-friendly vision.

imageBoth a blessing and a potential curse, cash crops represent, for this environmentalist at least, the lesser of two evils. Photo: asano

In the roadside fields were rubber plantations. Since the tree’s introduction to Thailand in 1899, most of Phuket’s cultivated land has been gradually given over to hevea brasiliensis and the production of latex. Although the groves of young rubber trees still had pineapples beneath their branches, another “outsider” cash crop was discernible beside the motorway: a huge plantation of oil palm saplings (elaeis). Rubber trees came originally from the Amazon rainforest, oil palms from Africa. It just shows how suited the Phuket climate is to so many non-indigenous plants.

Both a blessing and a potential curse, cash crops represent, for this environmentalist at least, the lesser of two evils. While they encourage little bio-diversity, at least they look better than concrete monuments to Mammon, and help to reduce both the carbon footprint and improve air quality.

Regrettably, the signs suggest – both from above and at ground level – that we are taking one step forward and two steps back in the battle to preserve our bit of the planet and its natural heritage. But we must be vigilant, we must continue to encourage every small initiative that benefits the cause of Mother Nature. Both our seas and our landscapes are constantly being put at risk.

If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured, email me at: Further information about this gardening series and Patrick’s other work can be accessed at:

— Patrick Campbell


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 mins ago

Sunday Covid-19 Afternoon Update: Provincial Totals

World34 mins ago

China announces cryptocurrency trading is illegal

North East46 mins ago

Stolen 72 year old elephant returned to owner after 18 years

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Thailand2 hours ago

Pattaya readjusts tourism goals for high season

Thailand3 hours ago

Phuket relaxes checkpoint requirements to help tourists and health officials

Phuket3 hours ago

Phuket Covid-19: 2 deaths, 4 Sandbox infections, 10k total cases

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand4 hours ago

Facebook page that claims to sell dog meat met with scorn on social media

Thailand5 hours ago

Thailand welcomes its first AI influencer, “AI Ailynn”

Thailand6 hours ago

Umbrellas out, more monsoonal rain in the wake of ‘Dianmu’

Thailand6 hours ago

Sunday Covid update: 125 deaths and 12,353 new cases

Thailand16 hours ago

Record-breaking 1 million Covid-19 vaccines given yesterday

Technology18 hours ago

Junk messages must now be blocked by Thai mobile carriers

Kanchanaburi20 hours ago

Abusive Kanchanaburi temple rehab centre ordered to close.

Phuket21 hours ago

Phuket begins new subdermal injection method for vaccines

Bangkok22 hours ago

Police bust hotel party with ecstasy and ketamine, 59 arrested

Tourism4 days ago

Travel data to Thailand for 106 million people unprotected online

Economy6 days ago

Cuts to import duty on alcohol, cigars, part of plan to entice wealthy foreigners

Crime5 days ago

OnlyFans content creators arrested by Thai police on pornography charges

Thailand5 days ago

Party at luxury villa in Phuket raided, homeowner allegedly assaults police officer

Coronavirus Vaccines6 days ago

Doctors say cardiac arrest caused death of man given AstraZeneca booster shot

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 days ago

Covid-19: Detailed info on vaccinations, hospitalisations, and provinces

Thailand6 days ago

Around 20 people arrested at Koh Samui restaurant for drinking alcohol, gambling, playing pool

Bangkok5 days ago

Governor says Bangkok will only re-open when safe to do so

Pattaya4 days ago

October Pattaya reopening on schedule according to mayor

Phuket3 days ago

Police suddenly began raiding Patong bars selling alcohol

Thailand5 days ago

Bangkok re-opening Criteria, Thai Airways keeps Struggling | Good Morning Thailand | Episode 93

Crime4 days ago

Ex-cop “Joe Ferrari,” other officers charged with violating discipline policy over suspect’s death

Thailand6 days ago

Morning Top Stories | No approved October re-opening, Phuket easing restrictions | September 20

Phuket7 days ago

Phuket domestic travel rules need streamlining, officials discuss

Thailand5 days ago

Government warns that posting pornographic material is illegal following OnlyFans creator being questioned by police

Thailand2 weeks ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism7 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism7 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism7 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11