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Phuket turning a new leaf on environmental consciousness



PHUKET: The bold challenge for the 2014 World Environment Day was to “raise your voice; not the sea level”. Social justice demands that we protect our environment for the next generation.

Our children are entitled to live in a world which remains beautiful and sustainable.

Loud must be our voices and loud must be our actions.

This demands every member of the community be ready to play his part day by day.

We must not only do the right thing ourselves, but we must demand that others do so as well. Let us not be afraid to ask our family, our community, our businesses and our governments to act.

Phuket is a beautiful island which has some 520,000 residents including 115,000 foreigners, 64,000
foreign workers in addition to up to 13 million tourists. It is an island community that is worthy of protecting. This year the United Nations is supporting island communities with the 2014 World Environment Day (story here).

Garbage is one of the most visible indicators of unsustainable development and a deteriorating environment. It appears that there is a total of 800 tonnes produced and discarded in Phuket daily [Source: Society of Environmental Economic Knowledge (SEEK) Indicators document 2013]. Garbage compromises the beauty of our island.

Whether it is washed up on our beaches, dumped by the roadside or cluttering up the canals and watercourses, it is an eyesore. More importantly, however, it has a direct impact on land and marine ecosystems, and contributes, through stagnant water collection, to the growth of dengue fever. The waste management systems are under pressure.

There are positive signs of change: SEEK has set a target for Phuket to become a clean Zero Waste Island by 2025; community cleanup groups are being created (Green Clubs); and awards and recognitions have been established to reward communities that reduce and recycle.

One tangible example of change is the establishment of the Phuket Environment Foundation at the incinerator in Saphan Hin. The foundation is designed to focus on reducing organic waste and encouraging local initiatives. Another example is The Prince of Songkla University Department of Engineering and the Environment establishing a new international college that will issue diplomas to students who undertake practical, high-quality training programs concerning the environment.

A persons’ heart can do nothing but be overwhelmed with joy when one drives around Kathu and sees street sweepers employed by the council caring for the streets and local communities, while earning income through their own local recycling projects.

Now that we do have something to shout about, we mustn’t stop.

— Dr Peter Harris


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