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A section of coral reef that locals say was damaged by a barge off Racha

Update: Coral Reef Damage Protest to Governor

Sunday, December 6, 2009
Phuketwan UPDATE

About 80 villagers from Racha island were headed for a meeting with Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob on Phuket on Tuesday December 8 to provide first-hand evidence and photos of the wrecking of a coral reef. The governor is known to be in favor of preservation of the marine environment, and stiff penalties for developers who break their undertakings.

Original Report: Photo Album Above

VILLAGERS have accused a resort contruction firm of damaging the coral at Koh Racha, one of Phuket's most popular dive destinations.

A series of photos given to Phuketwan by the villagers shows one large construction barge floating above the coral near Koh Racha, and sections where the reef has been destroyed.

Two barges are reported to have been used to carry large quantities of equipment and materials to Koh Racha for the construction of a new resort, Rayaburi.

The island is already home to a five-star, 70-room and villa resort, The Raya, on an arc of white sand at Batok Bay that ranks as possibly the region's best beach.

Rayaburi is to be built on the other side of the island, on Ao Siam beach, a longer beach without the picture-perfect sand and transparent waters of Batok Bay. Issuing of land titles for the second large resort has been a contentious process.

The photos, Phuketwan was told, were taken on Friday at Ao Siam, as the barge floated at anchor off the beach.

Divers said they saw the barge bounce into the reef as the waves pushed it backwards and forwards at low tide. An area of 15 metres by 20 metres was damaged, they said.

The bed of finger coral grows at just one centimetre a year, according to marine biologist Dr Nailnee Tongtam. Shallow groove brain coral and coral tabulate were also affected, she said.

''Damage can be caused in just 30 seconds that takes 10 years to restore,'' she said.

Officials from the Phuket Marine Biology Centre surveyed the damage at the request of villagers on Friday and went to Chalong Police Station on Saturday to ask for a prosecution to be launched against the construction company.

One Racha resident, Sutha Prateep No Thalang, said the construction company had promised to unload the barges at a smaller beach nearby, to avoid the coral at Ao Siam.

How construction companies can build resorts on Phuket's outlying islands without damaging the marine environment and creating unwanted roads has become a key issue for the special committee on the environment, established recently by Phuket Governor Wichai Praisa-Ngob.
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Comments

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I dive Racha Yai all year round. I see things like this time and time again. Barges crashing into coral, dumping bags of cement onto the coral, fishing boats, both pleasure and commercial, dropping heavy metal anchors and anchor chains over the coral.

Pleasure yachts also are regular culprits when it comes to dropping anchors where they shouldn't. Last year i'd estimate around 50 percent of the coral deeper then 12 meters, on the east coast of Racha in bays 1 and 2, were either severely damaged, or totally destroyed.

The ONLY way this problem will stop is for the Governor of Phuket to take some action and declare Racha Yai and Racha Noi National Marine Parks, and protect them as such. Charge every diver B200 per day to fund it. I am not kidding when I say and warn, in a few years from now, nearly all the coral will be destroyed or decimated.

Posted by Jamie on December 6, 2009 19:37

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Jamie, I share your sentiments and I pray your warning does not fall on deaf ears. Now is the time somebody has to start listening, or we will lose the very reason that divers from all over come here to dive.

Artificial reefs are just not the real thing.
Safe diving.

Posted by Graham on December 7, 2009 08:39

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Jamie, don't worry, your warning will fall on to deaf ears, as the governor only cares about fixing the roads or making new roads.

Posted by James on December 7, 2009 11:01

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There are those of us who make things happen, then there are those who sit idly by watching things happen, THEN comes the rest and wonder what the %^((^^& happened.

When there are no more fish, no more reefs no more diving, the useless will just move onto another destination. PHUKET wake up NOW, your world is falling apart, ACT NOW please ?

Posted by Graham on December 7, 2009 13:19

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The 200 baht charge will not work. Phang nga bay has 8000 odd visitors every day

Thats 1.6 million baht, do they spend any money on cleaning it up no, that's left to local operators like John Gray.

The famous stack which most people go to see is not being protected and boats go past all day and there wake, probably give a years worth of natural erosion every week, what are they going to do when it falls down som nam na they dont care.

The company that caused the damage at Racha should be made to pay. Horrible the way the reefs are being damaged in Thailand 20 years ago i visited coral island now the name should be changed to sand and damaged rock island

Koh Hong in Krabi where all the speedboats land had the most beautiful staghorn coral I had every seen and i had a chance to visit it with local fisherman who would only enter or leave the beach at high tide to avoid damaging the coral.

Posted by michael on December 7, 2009 20:13

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James, you are wrong about the Governor, he cares about trees too.

Yes I too witnessed the reefs being destroyed, not just Racha but Similans also.

They say the reason Similans is closed in the low season is so the fishermen can fish. Nearly every high season, divers volunteer and cut the nets off the reefs in Similans.

Perhaps the DMCR (Dept. of Marine and Coastal Resources) should be out paroling and fining.

If they fined the would have more funds to patrol and they do have a nice patrol boat or two already!

Same with the Police, they say they are understaffed. Well if they started fining for offenses, besides helmets, they would have a lot more money.

Seems to be working in many other developed nations. Hopefully this developing one will catch on.

Posted by VFaye on December 7, 2009 20:35


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