PHUKET: A layer of black gunge marred one of Phuket's most famous beaches today as tourists walking past turned up their noses in disgust.
Local residents of Bang Tao opted to talk to Phuket media for the first time today about the polluted and dangerous ''black'' water that stretched for more than a kilometre along the beach.
Some residents have fallen sick because nothing has been done to stop the raw pollution being discharged into the Bang Tao district's major canal, locals said.
Somsak Hamana, 45, said he had been unable to take his longtail out to sea since doctors diagnosed an infected foot that they blamed on the ''black'' water. He moors his boat in the canal.
''I'm also concerned about the kids of residents and tourists who swim nearby,'' he said today. ''The hotels around here try to hide this pollution and pretend it's not happening.''
He said that Bang Tao residents plan to begin a campaign that will mean the issue can no longer be ignored.
''Not all resorts are involved but the amount of black water is increasing because the number of resorts is increasing,'' he added.
The canal empties into the Andaman Sea at the southern end of Bang Tao beach, within walking distance of many of Phuket's best-known resorts.
Local authorities do little to enforce laws that are designed to prevent the sea being polluted.
''Nobody is looking at this issue properly,'' said Khun Somsak.
Kecha Kholek, consultant to the Bang Tao Longtail Business group, said that today's pollution was particularly bad, but the dumping of ''black'' water into the canal had been taking place for years and occurred regularly.
''We think they store it up and release it at weekends, when there are no authorities working,'' he said.
''This weekend, though, the dumping has been done at the wrong time and the tide has not carried away the evidence.''
He said the hotels and possibly restaurants involved were ''vert selfish'' and showed no sign of caring about the environment or nearby residents.
Skin complaints had become a health issue for people who lived around the canal, he said.
Earth Day comes on Monday with some of Phuket's best-known beaches and off-shore day-trip destinations undergoing rapid degradation.