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Useful tsunami?
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    Gor Gai

    <span style='color:black'><span style='font-size:15pt;line-height:100%'>Environment shining in wake of disaster</span>
    Nantiya Tangwisutijit
    The Nation


    Some call it the turquoise smile. Others just nod as if contemplaing a pleasant memory. But ask any local in the tsunami-affected areas about the environmental health of their beaches now, and their tone is readily upbeat.

    "I&#39;ve never seen the water looking so blue and the sand so white," says Phuket hotelier Lily Udomkunatum, 28 in Patong.
    "I go jogging along the beach every morning. This is how it&#39;s supposed to be," she said from her recently reopened Burasari Resort, only 100 meteres from the beachfront.

    The December 26 tsunami may be reffered to as a killer, but ironically it seems to have restored life to the waters and beachers in its path. Long-time Patong residents say the water is of the same clarity and the sand the same whiteness that made the beach famous 20 years ago. Now people can go swimming withoug having to worry about eye infections or skin rashes, they say.

    Those sentiments are echoed by Krabi coastal biologist and longtime diver Jate Pmoljinda. "now that the tsunami has cleaned things up for us, keeping it this way should be a major goal of any recovery programme," he stressed. He and others have documented the return of fish species that had disappeared from reef areas for years because of declining water quality, including some small shark species.

    Fishermen have noted an increase in the sice of their catches, sometimes as much as 100 per cent. Liem Kulkarn of Koh Yao Noi says his catches of blue-tailed prawns have increased to as much as seven kilograms a day in recent weeks. Sea gypsy crab-catcher Suk Nawarak of Phang Nga&#39;s Ban Tha Pla agrees. But like everyone else, Lily expresses frustration that what she sees is only temporary. She and her colleauges in the tourism industry are well aware of humans&#39; impact on the seaside and see little hope that the renewed lustre of the beaches will last.

    "Once all the businesses return, it&#39;ll be hard [to preserve the pristine conditions]," says Lily. "We survey our guests every year about what they don&#39;t like, and the answers are always the same. They don&#39;t like the pollution, the garbage or the mosquitoes. We report this to the [Phuket] governor, but things never seemed to improve much."

    And efforts to preserve the environmental windfall are markedly absent with reconstruction getting under way. For example, there are no plans to start up Patong&#39;s wastewater treatment system, which has never been fully used since completion in 1991. The same is true of the never-used but now-damaged plant on Phi Phi Island. Khao Lak, another hard-hit area, had no central treatment system, nor any plans to build one.

    Patong&#39;s tourism businesses blame the increasingly polluted condition of the beach before the tsunami on inefficiency and lax controls on the part of local authorities. Hotels and businesses have long been allowed to get away with simply dumping wastewater into the sea. "We need a stronger will and better technology and management," says Somchai Silapananon of the Phuket Tourism Association&#39;s tsunami-recovery center. "To prove that the water is treated, we must be able to reuse it. If we continue to dump so-called &#39;treated&#39; water into the sea, then no one knows how well it&#39;s actually been treated of even whether it has been at all. But first and foremost, an environmental regulatory body must do its job."

    Patong major Pian Keesin says the municipality acknowledges its faults but has not ignored the problem. It is currently studying Japanese water-treatment technology. "But first, we&#39;re waiting for a budget from the Department of Environmental Planning and Promotion," he said.

    Although these beachfronts may be national assets above and beyond their tourism value, the government has shown little interest or political will to keep them clean and building-free. On his visit to Phi Phi Island two weeks ago, Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang said the government could not make the environment a top priority in recovery plans, because doing so would hurt the tourism industry even more by tacking additional costs onto their operations.

    Phi Phi hotels, resorts and shophouses were notorious for beachfront enroachment and releasing wastewater into the sea. "No matter how much we want to do the right thing for the environment, now is not the time to be too rigorous because we dont want to add insult to their injury," said Chaturon.

    But hoteliers like Patong&#39;s Lily argue tourism is a long-term business that depends on the beauty of nature. "All of us really want it [a wastewater treatment system] to work," says Lily. "Yes, there is a price to pay, but I don&#39;t care. we have to do it for a brighter future."</span>

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ]tourism is a long-term business that depends on the beauty of nature.
    That is right only in the case of normal tourists who come to see the beaches and explore the forests. However, considering that the place is called Patong, regular visitors of this place won&#39;t give a damnn about the health of the environment, as they come here for an entirely different reason.

    Too bad, but not surprising, that top-level politicians are puppy dogs to these "guests" and to the industry that serves them, as they perceive to get more money from sex tourism than normal tourism.
    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ]Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang said the government could not make the environment a top priority in recovery plans, because doing so would hurt the tourism industry even more by tacking additional costs onto their operations.
    Right. And if had 50 satang for every vice that is tolerated in the name of the tourism dollars, I could buy Thaksin out by now.

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