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Greed and commerce are killing Kamala beach and other Phuket gems

Phuket's Beaches: Is It Too Late?

Friday, May 30, 2014
PHUKET: Saving Phuket's famous beaches will not be possible unless there's a single authority that is responsible for them all, a leading local official said this week.

Seri Larpmark, the Deputy Mayor of Kamala, said that the odds were stacked against officials because of the way the local council system worked.

''Phuket Province should take charge because local authorities cannot do it,'' he said.

On Kamala beach, he said, about 50 tents had recently been added to the shambolic constructions that mark the commercialisation of the sands.

When Phuketwan last visited Kamala beach, perhaps the most commercialised of all of Phuket's beaches, among the ramshackle shops on the beach edge were a beauty salon and a real estate agent's outlet.

Every year, all of Phuket's well-known west coast beaches become more commercial.

From Nai Harn in the south, where garbage is seldom binned and where an illegal restaurant flourishes on a headland, through Kata, Karon and Patong to Surin and Kamala, and on to Nai Thon and Nai Yang, the signs are all bad.

Phuket's beaches, once among the best to be found anywhere, are rapidly being destroyed for quick profit.

''If the Phuket Governor lets the local council deal with beach invasions by themselves, nothing will ever change,'' Khun Seri said.

''There are elections every four years so change is only possible in the first year and perhaps the second year.

''Otherwise people remember and vote against the person who made the change.'' There might also be 1000 people operating on a beach, all of them voters.

''What's happened is the efforts to keep the beaches clean and natural have led to the vendors and commercial operators banding together, and now they are powerful lobby groups,'' he said.

''They do just what they want to do.''

What crackdowns there were always came in the low season months, Khun Seri said, when there were fewer tourists around and when many of the vendors and operators did not care whether their roughly-built outlets were torn down.

''An independent organisation that treats all beaches the same and that has the authority to keep all the Phuket beaches clear is the only way the beaches will be saved,'' Khun Seri said.

Phuketwan advocates the establishment of a Phuket Beach Authority with the objective of maintaining and protecting Phuket's beaches for future generations, using the Royal Thai Navy to enforce laws aimed at keeping the beaches natural.

Profit from any commercial activities should go towards enhancing the beaches, not into private pockets.

Comments

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Just recently come back from our first stay at Kamala beach, first time there in a dozen or more trips to Phuket.

First day I walked from one end of the beach to the other, none of us went back to the beach for the rest of the stay. Preferred to head further South.

There are also regular comments about saving the beaches. It is probably too late. The filth I saw washing out on Kamala beach and the way it looked was a shame.

I love visiting Phuket but much of the commentary here is correct. Our recent trip we spent 2/3 of the trip in Khao Lak, When we travel again later this year we may not come to Phuket at all.

Please someone with power listen to these reported problems, they are real!

Posted by Darren on May 30, 2014 19:29

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Oh how I agree, the beaches on Phuket are in a dreadful state. I have be coming for over 25yrs and the decline over the last 10years is terrible. The idea of a beach authority is what is needed. Their are green clubs trying to clean up the rubbish but this is just the tip of the iceberg. All the developments on the beach should be removed be they shacks or beach clubs, the beach area belongs to everyone. Most tourists would dispose of their rubbish if their was somewhere to place it. On the beach it amazes me that stall holders and restaurants never clear the rubbish surely they see is as a mess. The local people cannot keep the beach areas clear so come on Govenor pay for people to clear and clean your beaches once they where paradise but not any more, maybe you have gone beyond the tipping point in that case you will be looking at saying goodbye to your visitors whom bring a lot of Bhat to the island. Please people of Phuket do something before it's to late.

Posted by Granitebeetle on May 30, 2014 19:45

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Yes Phuket is lost, but then again maybe it's a reflection on the country as a whole !! Shame such a diverse culture & places of wonder. But then again, jump on a plane, 2 weeks who cares great-great go home.. Locals need to care as the tourist sure won't..... Shame again it's about 20 years to late.

Posted by allthesame. on May 30, 2014 20:00

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I won't go into the history of decline - we have all seen & experienced it & could quote many examples.

What Phuket needs in line with the rest of Thailand is a complete overhaul of its political system from top to bottom. Remove all the deadwood officials who are only interested in lining their pockets & set up a structure that can recover some if not all of the damage.

Posted by Logic on May 30, 2014 21:13

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Powerful interest groups resist changing the status quo. The worst one for me is Nai Harn, but I'm biased, as I got engaged there.. what a beautiful place, degraded into a veritable dumping ground of trash, past the critical stage by now, you just know the group of youngsters will leave all their crap where they sat..plastic bags a flutter..

Posted by farang888 on May 30, 2014 21:36

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To be able to achieve some goal, first, it is necessary to define a goal - to what kind of standard beaches of Phuket should be kept?
I think The Blue Flag criteria would be very useful, as they cover complete scope of issues related to a beach, and without doubt provides high standard of beach maintenance.
Although it is not so popular in Asia as in Europe, it is possible to use as reference and apply directly and in full.

There are in total 33 criteria, with detailed guidelines for each of them.
http://www.blueflag.org/menu/criteria/beaches/beach-criteria-and-expl-notes-2014

To illustrate how far Phuket beaches from what Europe thinks of a good beach, I will cite some part of three of them (for Criterion 15 I am sure all Phuket beaches, except NaiThon, are of "D" grade - "Very dirty")

"Criterion 9. No industrial, waste-water or sewage-related discharges should affect the beach area
Criterion 11. The beach must comply with the Blue Flag requirements for the following physical parameters. Water quality can also be affected by physical and chemical parameters such as oil and floatables: ... There has to be an absence of floatables such as tarry residues, wood, plastic articles, bottles, containers, glass or any other substance.
Criterion 15. The beach must be clean.
The beach and surrounding areas including paths, parking areas and access paths to the beach must be clean and maintained at all times. Litter should not be allowed to accumulate causing these areas to become unsightly or hazardous.
During storm water flows, the outlets and surrounding areas must be kept clean.

Bulky Litter 1. Define an area of 100m2 (10m x 10m) for your bulky litter count and photo (Choose the dirtiest 100m2 that you can find on the beach) 2. Count the units of bulky litter ( larger than 10cm) within the area 3. Take a picture of the area (to keep as proof) 4. Determine the cleanliness level with help of the beach litter indicator (see below)

Fine Litter 1. Define an area of 1m2 for your fine litter count and photo (choose the dirtiest area within the 100m2) 2. Count units of fine litter (smaller than 10cm) within the area 3. Take a picture of the area (to keep as proof) 4. Determine the cleanliness level with help of the beach litter indicator (see below)

Beach Litter Indicator

Number of litter units per area / Cleanliness level
0 units A+ Very clean
1-3 units A Clean
4-10 units B Moderately clean
11-25 units C Dirty
More than 25 units D Very dirty

At a Blue Flag Beach, the cleanliness level should be A+ or A.

Posted by Sue on May 30, 2014 22:01

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- Darren

Had you been living in Thailand, you would know the problem is not lack of knowledge about the issues.

It's the fact that nobody in power gives a damn about anything but making money any which way they can.

Peel back a few years and you can find a video of a local council on Phuket using a backhoe to bury garbage right on the beach, into the sand.

All 300 bags of it left by a wedding party.

So just who in power do you expect to "listen" and give a damn ?

The ONLY thing that will force any kind of positive change is a total loss of face, being exposed for all the ill deeds and the following loss of revenue.

You can sweet talk and listen to empty promises ad nauseam but they amount to absolutely nothing on Phuket. They are nothing but a smokescreen to pacify gullible foreigners stupid enough to believe them.

Oh I so wish I would be proven wrong about this. Yet to happen in my 10y here.

Posted by ThaiMike on May 30, 2014 23:31

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Uncompromising enforcement of laws needs to be employed. And maybe the best way to kick things off is pick a few of the top corrupt people in this scenario. Cut down a few of the big wigs, then enforce across the board, continuously, consistently and fairly, and over time the problems could be eradicated. And the enforcement has to come from a new body of people who are not currently involved, and therefore do not currently have their finger(s) in the pie.

Posted by Duncan on May 31, 2014 07:13

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Beach? looks like a Ikea outdoor display

Posted by slickmelb on May 31, 2014 08:38

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At the southern end of patong beach all the walkway is collapsing onto the beach. The taxi men have now got a sofa and a easy chair on the walkway. Has a homely look. Of coarse rubbish everyware

Posted by Dobby on May 31, 2014 12:22

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The Phuket beaches are in a disgraceful state and given that the beaches amongst other things are what Phuket trades on to draw tourists, immediate action is required. You only have to look at Bali to see what lies ahead. Their beaches are filthy and the reality is a far cry from the brochures. By employing clever photographic angles and no doubt photoshop they disguise what the beaches are really like. More akin to an open site rubbish tip.

I believe the Editor is right in his assessment that an independent beach authority is required, not only for the maintenance and care of the beaches, but also to remove any illegal structures, bars and restaurants.

What could be a viable option is that every tourist on arrival should be required to pay a small 'visa on arrival fee' much like Bali does. The fee need not be big, let's say $5 per passport holder.

This money should only be used to pay for the beach enforcement agency, daily beach cleaning, repairs, placement of rubbish bins and of course life guards. Part of the money could be used to produce information leaflets for tourists on arrival warning them of the dangerous rip tides, illegal taxis etc, placement of warning signs on the beaches and enforcement patrols. I would also advocate no smoking rules on the beaches, with areas designated for smokers.

Not only would this clean up the beaches it would provide employment for the Thais. Obviously refuse would have to be disposed of properly, not just buried. Furthermore, beach front hotels should also be required to make a contribution.

For the beach authority, they should be fully empowered to enforce the rules without recourse.

Illegal structures, bars and restaurants should be given a 7 day eviction notice and then the structure removed. No ifs and buts. Better still to do this before high season but if these things make a reappearance during high season, the 7 day eviction notice should be issued immediately, customers asked to vacate and the illegal business closed.

Again, those employed in such an agency must be clear of any corruption, cronyism or nepotism and have no ties to commercial enterprises. Without fear of favour.

Given the tourism numbers (difficult to decipher) the small fee would pay for all this and more I think. Perhaps the navy could assist in enforcement, but I don't think it's really a military thing so therefore empower the beach authority. Perhaps the mayor and governor could make such a representation to the General and have this brought into law whilst the constitution is being amended. Just a thought......

Posted by Lord Melchett on May 31, 2014 14:07

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Thanks, Lord Melchett, that was funny. But I think your name is really Dorothy and guess what - you're not in Kansas any more.

Posted by Smithy on May 31, 2014 14:27

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Actually there is enough money for beach cleaning since all hotels in Phuket are paying a tax/fee to the government for this purpose. Take a wild guess where the money might be going to.

In my opinion Phuket's beaches are still beautiful and there is no need to use photoshop for advertisement purposes but make sure to take the pictures during high season. During low season there is plenty of debris washed ashore but this is not only due to whats happening in Phuket but a world-wide problem. Just google "garbage island" and see whats going on in the oceans worldwide.

Posted by Jakub P. on May 31, 2014 15:30

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Lord Melchett, maybe we need Captain Darling Darling or alternatively Baldwick may have a cunning plan!

Posted by Manowar on May 31, 2014 15:33

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Well well, it seams that I have somewhat missed the point of making comments here. There was me thinking it would be useful to offer some suggestion on how to improve things. How very foolish of me.

@Smithy, no I am neither Dorothy nor do I live in Oz. Perhaps I should, even if to get away from the clowns. I don't like clowns....scarey creatures. Thanks for your (hilarious) comment. Perhaps one day you will have an idea on how to try and improve life for all on the island....we stand by.

@Jakob P, I think you missed my point that Bali is in a dreadful state and Phuket is heading the same way. The reference to photographic angles and photoshopping refers to what they do to the glossy magazines advertising Bali as a dream beach location. The truth is far from it and there are articles on that subject, if you care to search. As for Phuket beaches, yes they aren't as bad as some, but to ignore what is happening will invite disaster. I suggest you reread the title of the article at least. It's about saving the beaches before it's too late. And as a diver I am only to familiar with the debris floating in the oceans. I have found some truly bizarre things underwater, from dress shoes, clothing and dentures....no they were not mine!

@Manowar, finally someone gets me, chortle. But I think Baldrick is already in charge.

Time to dash as I have had far to many Pimms, time for something to eat. Maybe a nice Rat-o-van and a frothy capuchino. Anyone got any brown sprinkles. No, oh well I guess I will have to go to the beach. Cheerio.

Posted by Lord Melchett on May 31, 2014 19:23

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Go forth Lord Melchett and conquer the minds and hearts of the peasants. If this task cannot be achieved, take their possessions and shoot them. I shall not accept failure, however failure will be rewarded with promotion.

Posted by Manowar on June 1, 2014 02:19

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A few days back, a couple asked me why I still spend most of my winter months in Thailand. They had spent 3 weeks in and around Phuket.
"Filthy place" " total rip off" dirty smelly beaches, were some of the remarks. I was quite upset, as I knew they were right, and "my " Phuket of the 80 s and 90 s is gone forever!

Posted by Elizabeth on June 3, 2014 06:47


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