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Koh Lon, site of the Taj Exotica and an environmental showdown

Phuket's Taj Exotica Resort Faces Enviro Marathon

Thursday, December 24, 2009
THE INDIAN-backed Taj Exotica, Phuket's most luxurious resort project, continues to battle to meet exacting environmental standards being imposed by a special review committee on the island.

It is a classic dilemma, and it may even influence the expansion of top-brand resorts in remote places elsewhere around the world.

For the ninth time today, Taj representatives submitted an application seeking to proceed with the 1.5 billion-baht Taj Exotica project, to be built on land owned by the Taj developers on Koh Lon, a small island close to Phuket's east coast.

And for the ninth time, the committee, made up of 30 representatives from Phuket local authorities, marine biologists and environmentalists, denied the Taj application.

One of the key issues concerns how construction material and people can be transported by boat to an area renowned for its low-lying beach corals and sea grasses, without causing any damage.

The Governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-ngob, established the special review committee earlier this year because of doubts about the effectiveness of previous environmental assessments and approvals.

Time and again, the Taj project has come before the committee. Today, discussion centred on how to transfer construction materials at high tide.

Locals dispute claims by the Taj that construction barges can deliver materials and equipment within the small timeframe allowed by a high tide.

After today's meeting, one representative of the Taj, said to be an executive from India, declined to give his name or make any comment to Phuketwan.

Local authorities and national departments have yet to approve the building of the Taj, which has been reported as costing up to $900,000 a villa.

Phuketwan heard at today's meeting that if the process for constructing the resort meets with the committee's approval, it could take up to a year for other local and national departments to give the go-ahead.

Vice Governor Tree Akaradeth, who chaired today's meeting, said there was a previous case at Naithon beach, on Phuket's west coast, involving a similar problem, where the applicants had eventually abandoned the project.

The Taj Exotica has been designed by noted Thai architect, Lek Bunnag, whose most recent project, the Ritz-Carlton Reserve at Phulay Bay, opened on December 22.

Lon Island, 15 minutes by longtail from Chalong pier, is regarded as one of Phuket's natural gems, with animals and vegetation being maintained in a conservation zone by local villagers and fishery rangers.

Low-lying coral reefs surround the bay where the Taj is to be built.

The committee has previously questioned how the resort will manage the 24-hour speedboat transport service for guests at high and low tides without causing damage to the coral.

The Taj Exotica involves 121 villas and a Taj representive told Phuketwan earlier this year: ''This is a 400 million baht investment in purchasing 136 rai, and construction will cost 1.5 billion baht.''

Other major projects awaiting the committee's approval of environmental impact assessments today were:

..The ''Aupiana'' Resort and Spa, 186 rooms, at Karon.

..Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket, 107 rooms, at Cherng Thalay.

..Phukaron Resort, 124 rooms, at Karon.

..Mai Khao Dream, 240 rooms, at Mai Khao.
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Wednesday April 24, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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