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Balance  means safety first and a new Phuket Beach Authority

Phuket Needs Balance on its Beaches

Sunday, August 10, 2014
PHUKET: Balance is what's required if Phuket is to deal with vast numbers of tourists each high season and preserve its parks, beaches and reefs.

Others prefer to use the word ''sustainability.'' We reject the s word because it means many different things to many different people.

Sustainability to a property developer, for example, means continued growth. On the other hand, sustainability to an environmentalist means no more property development.

So balance is what Phuket needs, and the same word should be applied to other tourist destinations in Thailand where the desire for increased revenue must be matched by better strategies and preservation of the countries' vulnerable natural attributes - its parks, reefs and beaches.

Balance can be taken to extremes.

Phuket in recent times has, like a surreal Chinese juggler, attempted to balance thousands of sunbeds and beach umbrellas on its nose.

Now the whole lot has come tumbling down and the military brass band has intervened to keep circus patrons entertained while the jugglers get their act together again.

Balance is a matter of giving the tourists what they and Thailand need, not what the most hedonistic visitors want.

We've never seen the need for loud music at beaches, whether it's a Russian couple with a boom box on the sand or a hip-hop disco on the shorefront.

The sound of crashing waves is the only tune a beach plays. It's music to our ears and one of the reasons we go to the seaside.

Disposing of the disco dancers at Phuket's Surin beach, for example, helps to restore a balance with nature.

The uncontrolled greed that pushed some beach restaurants to the high water mark also must be contained.

Over the years on Phuket, conflicts have led to compromises and compromises in turn have led to corruption.

When it comes to saving Phuket's beaches, parks and reefs, there must be no compromise and no corruption, just a sensible balance.

This is why we said, years ago, that a beach with two beach clubs is fine. But does any Phuket beach need 20 beach clubs?

We continue to advocate the establishment of a Phuket Beach Authority, an independent body that would remove the difficult decision-making process from the hands of Phuket's conflicted local authorities.

When decisions have to be made about Phuket's beaches, because of the mishmash of responsibilities, as many as a dozen local departments have to be called in.

A strategy for the future of Phuket's beaches must take account of all the needs of beachgoers, and that includes water safety.

The lifeguards must be an important ingredient in defining a balance, and it's important to note that the only buildings close to most Australian beaches are the lifesaving clubs.

The Royal Thai Navy should also have a central role. It's the only organisation on Phuket with the manpower needed to mount regular patrols, and the only organisation with proven environmental protection skills.

Balance is also essential in administering natural justice.

If by chance any five-star resort is found to be illegally on public land on Phuket, we would suggest that the resort be allowed to continue to operate, but with all profits going to the maintenance of public parks.

Likewise, the stand of restaurants that remains along the pathway at Surin beach has the potential to provide a balance.

As long as the aim is strictly to feed tourists and watch the sun go down, we can see that taxing the leaseholders so the surrounding environment profits could prove ideal.

Entertaining people on a beach has never been a problem: nature has always done that well.

All that's needed now for Phuket to achieve its rightful place in Thailand tourism is less juggling and a more thoughtful balance.

Declaration of interest: Twinpalms, Catch and Bimi beach clubs are longtime loyal Phuketwan advertisers.

Comments

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why a chinese juggler? that's surreal.

Posted by phonus balonus on August 10, 2014 08:37

Editor Comment:

Chinese jugglers are the world's best.

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Unfortunately there is never 'enough' when it comes to developers. They see empty land in terms of how many apartments or villas they can get on the block.

In most developed countries developers must provide parking for each unit and a certain % of the land must be landscaped with gardens.

In Thailand people just want to cram as many as they can on to the site and shop-houses built these days are often only 4 meters wide. There is no parking or gardens so an area gets overbuilt and turns ugly very rapidly.

There are laws in place but rampant corruption has led to laws being ignored.

Posted by Arun Muruga on August 10, 2014 12:28

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It's a good article & no doubt you could have waxed lyrical for hours on many related topics. The key word is indeed 'Balance' & there are many more areas to explore once the military has sorted out the deeper messes they uncovered than they expected.

Development ('over' that is) is a topic that must be addressed soon. It is having many impacts on the island:

1/. Lack of water - leading to streams of water delivery tankers crowding the roads - endangering others with their haste & thoughtlessness.
2/. Lack of sanitation - polluted beaches - ruined corals - causing unnecessary illnesses.
3/. Rubbish disposal - mountains of rubbish around the island - caused by poor planning & building controls leading to over crowding - beyond what the present system can handle.
4/. Destruction of scenery to create ever more building sites.

Really the list is endless.

Then there always has been the issue of creating facilities for quality & family tourists. Yet ever more hostess bars have been appearing on Soi Bangla & elsewhere. Is that really necessary? They could be moved to a more secluded area of the town where they are easily available for those that want them, without inflicting them on the general public.

Again the list is endless.

The trend is definitely in the right direction. Keeping the issues in public domain for those who need to know is vitally important. Keep going with these articles PW - very well received.

Posted by Logic on August 10, 2014 16:22

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it's important to note that the only buildings close to most Australian beaches are the lifesaving clubs.

Better add a sprinkling of yacht clubs too Ed, they also allow the life saving clubs to run a small kiosk from the building which allows them a income no other commercial enterprise is seen on a beach & that kiosk is volunteer its smart clever well received & assists to pay the clubs outgoings so the Lifesaving club & service continues its a shame the Thais cant seem to think at this level and implement a club and service that pays for itself, popular cheap, good for Thailand vote catching for councilors why is so hard.

Posted by slickmelb on August 10, 2014 16:24

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Good article. What a joy it was to wander along Surin beach yesterday without the hideous decrepit sun loungers and atrocious encroachment of Pla Restaurant, and see many of Thai families enjoying the beach with their children, together with many tourists, and many people enjoying the new found shade under the trees. The view along the beach from the northern rocks is gorgeous, the best Surin beach has looked for well over 10 years.

The next step needs to be to remove all the unsightly buildings on the east side of the beach path as most of these are horrible structures that should never have been built in the first place. Give Surin beach back to the public, remove all the remnants of the concrete beach wall at the south end of the beach, allow nature to determine where the beach starts instead of pouring more concrete. Demolish all the illegal structures, squatter houses and illegal workers camps that do nothing but pollute the environment. Enough is enough.

The good restaurant and beach club operators can find somewhere else to go, there is still plenty of opportunity to relocate within Surin and Bangtao, and the others can seek alternative opportunities - frankly most of them never deserved to be operating on Surin beach in the first place. Tailor shops and illegal hotels on a beach as beautiful as Surin beach - what a disgrace ? Whoever was operating the illegal hotel where Stereolab once stood should be prosecuted, as should those who have operated illegal worker camps like the one next to south Surin car park.

Maybe, once the beach is properly restored to the public, there could at some point be some limited land available for lease on a competitive public tender basis for a properly commercial rent, for operation of beach clubs or restaurants, but with the rent going towards maintaining the beach area, eliminating pollution, arranging rubbish collection, and so forth, instead of going into the hands of a small number of rapacious squatters that have been making out like bandits by sub-leasing public land to those who happily played along while there was a buck in it.

For once, there is a wonderful opportunity to actually realize the potential of Phuket's naturally beautiful beaches.

Posted by Surin4All on August 13, 2014 11:55

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The problem is that this concept of "balance" isn't workable. The very people who were in charge of protecting the beach, sold it off and got rich doing it. If you let the beach businesses have a toe hold, they will constantly push the boundaries for more and we'll be right back where we were. There is no middle ground. The only thing that should be on the King's beach is sand. If that sends the tourists somewhere else...see ya.

Posted by Kamalala on August 14, 2014 20:46

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Went to Nai Harn beach yesterday afternoon (Sunday) it was like a Aussie swimming beach people everywhere enjoying themselves.
I still believe there should be some beach chairs allowed but not the way they were up to seven rows deep just on small sections of the beach in one row near the tourist resorts, what would the people of Phuket do if the tourists stopped coming
A lot do enjoy the beach chairs and service provided

Posted by Peter Allen on August 18, 2014 10:17

Editor Comment:

Just imagine the squabbles over the sunbeds, pa, as one person offers to pay double and another says ''It's mine for the whole week.'' And before long, a bright spark suggests ''The way to solve this problem is to have a second row . . .'' It won't work.

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Well written, Surin4All. The joy of seeing the new Surin Beach free from all commercial activity reminds me of why I came to Phuket in the first place, many years ago. I have had my modest property on the market for the past couple of years, disgusted at the spoilt paradise we once knew. I have removed the listing, full of hope for a fresh start. To those who want sunbed & umbrella vendors, please go elsewhere or bring your own. Beach Clubs have no place encroaching on the shoreline, and jetskies' are just noisy and dangerous in such close proximity to swimmers. I firmly believe that in the future this will be a great boost to tourism. Long may it continue.

Posted by Nedster on August 18, 2014 19:46

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We came to Surin Beach now for 4 repetitive years as we have our place over there since then. First year we had great food at Mr. Tan, and used their beach chairs to relax. Over the following years we could not believe what we saw, every year more beach clubs, more loud music already in the afternoon...Twin Palms is also to blaim, as Catch beach club was fine, but Bimi started dancing and loud music in the afternoon...Zazada topping up to spoil the beach with concrete and beaming ugly colored lights on the beautiful north end rocks..We saw less fish when snorkling, more rubbish, more ugly buildings all around the beach removing nature... and all of this in 4-5 years time. We never did understand why this happened, as most of these extra clubs seemed empty during the evening (except Catch Beach Club)
Wondering how things will look when we return next February
There definitely should be a regulated official system to allow some limited restaurants on the beach, it will probably increase the cost for tourists, but make the beach so much more beautiful as most of us want?

Posted by Eric on August 21, 2014 17:03


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