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Protection for parks will not include live aboard limits

Entry Quotas on Similans and Surin National Parks

Monday, June 30, 2008
NEW LIMITS on the number of people visiting the Similans and Surin islands will probably offer long-term protection for the two parks off Phang Nga.

Eight mainland-based Thai national parks are also having limits imposed from July 1 2008.

In practical terms, the new controls are expected to reduce the effects of visitors at peak periods, at weekends and on public holidays.

The limits do not apply to live-aboard dive-boats and so do not offer increased protection to the coral reefs.

Imposing control on numbers on land is the first sign of an awareness that parks need to protected from overuse.

In some cases, the quota system could actually reduce income at the parks.

While the Similan islands are more popular with divers and snorkellers than Surin at present, the new numbers allow for more people to visit Surin than the Similans.

Agents will inform the parks department of bookings. Early bookings will ensure people get to the destinations on the dates they wish to visit.

The director general of the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Chalearmsak Wanidsombat, told Phuketwan from Bangkok that the aim was to reduce the pressures on the parks.

''These are the 10 most popular parks in Thailand,'' he said. ''We have chosen to act first at them because they are the ones most threatened.''

Thailand had many public holidays and, combined with weekends, these created more wear and tear and garbage at the parks.

The aim was to prevent deterioration of the environment within the parks, he said.

At Surin, only 500 people will be allowed to stay overnight in the park. The park only has 16 bungalow units, so those people would mostly be in tents.

At the Similans, only 120 people are allowed to stay at night. Maximum numbers of day visitors have been fixed at 1410 for the Similans and 500 for Surin.

Monthly figures for the Similans and Surin reflect the pressures on the parks during high season especially.

Similans visitors: January 11,695, February 8549 March 7023 April 4623 May 281.

Surin visitors: January 1162 February 4943 March 3148 April 3999 May 506.

Khun Chalearmsak said the new limits would reduce the amount of visitors during holidays by half and by 20 to 30 per cent most other days.

The parks income of some 400 million baht a year is expected to suffer marginally.

But the quota system will allow the parks' ecosystems to recover and help screen ''good quality'' visitors.

Other national parks are expected to limit visitors later, he said.

The eight mainland parks where limits apply from July 1 2008 are:

In Chiang Mai, Huai Nam Dang National Park (1134 overnight visitors and 850 daytime visitors); Doi Phahompok National Park (1000 overnight visitors and 1100 daytime visitors); Doi Inthanon National Park (800 overnight visitors and 2500 daytime visitors); Doi Suthep-Pui National Park (850 overnight visitors and 2900 daytime visitors).

In Loei, Phu Kradueng National Park (5300 overnight visitors and 300 daytime visitors); Nakhon Ratchasima's Khao Yai National Park (2650 overnight visitors and 3235 daytime visitors).

In Kanchanaburi, Erawan National Park (742 overnight visitors and 2000 daytime visitors); in Phetchburi, Kaeng Krachan National Park (1500 overnight visitors and 1500 daytime visitors).

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