PHUKET: Phuket officials were short for answers today as smelly polluted black water blanketed a large stretch of Karon beach, with litter and trash adding to the mix.
The latest dramatic sign of environmental degradation on Phuket's beaches came as Governor Maitree Intrusud joined tourism industry officials on a promotional trip to Macau.
''We are very upset,'' wrote Donetella and Paolo, two tourists whose booked a holiday probably based on brochures selling the ''pristine beauty'' of Karon beach.
The photographs told the story. If the governor had still been on Phuket, he may have acknowledged that the smell was bad and the black water was toxic.
He may have also asked the questions that Phuketwan asked of the Mayor of Karon, Tavee Tongchem.
PW: Can you give us an update please on the black water and trash on the beach and what you plan to do about it?
Mayor Tavee; Please can you call the director of engineering.
PW: How can you sure when it will be safe for people to swim at Karon beach?
Mayor Tavee: Call this number - 076 330187 - and ask for Khun Sakchai.
The mayor then rang off.
It was later established that the pollution was caused by a burst wastewater pipe.
Environmental authorities were this evening contacting resorts and asking them to advise their guests to steer well clear of the danger zone until the hole is repaired.
Today's full flush of pollution is just the latest indication that Karon beach, once noted for its fine squeaky sand and tranquility, is succumbing to environmental vandalism and lack of serious action in response by local officials.
Other Phuket beaches are also endangered by overdevelopment, by lack of policing of environmental regulations, and by corruption that leads to breaches going unpunished.
Many resort managements along Phuket's key west coast tourism strip restrict their interest to the boundaries of their facilities and merely send up silent prayers that authorities will one day learn what to do.
Meanwhile Phuket, like its great rival, Bali, faces a constant environmental struggle to preserve its once-wonderful natural assets.
Sadly, Phuket officials are trained to solve issues by compromise. But as Phuket and Bali tourists are discovering, there can be no compromise when it comes to protecting natural assets.
Phuketwan believes local authorities all over Phuket are not equipped with the foresight or the skills to understand the threat now being mounted to the future of tourism on the island.
We advocate establishing a new and powerful Phuket Beach Authority to save Phuket's prime tourist attractions for future generations of Thais and tourists.
We believe more people are gradually coming to the same conclusion.