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Elephants and shorts are two of many diversions at Cape Promthep

Phuket Wants to Have Its Cape and Eat It, Too

Sunday, June 29, 2008
OPINION
THE ROAD between Cape Promthep and Nai Harn beach is one of the few pleasant all-green journeys that remain on Phuket.

It's a delightful trip because there are glimpses of the sea along the way, lots of greenery on both sides of the road, and no large buildings.

It's possible to imagine, even for just a few short minutes, how beautiful Phuket must have been before tourists and developers arrived in great numbers.

That's why we are concerned to hear that Rawai authorities plan to build a 'Sea Natural History Museum' on 271 rai along that stretch of coast.

The word ''build'' is what poses the problem. Natural beauty and ''building,'' just like jungle and concrete, do not sit happily together.

The viewpoint at Cape Promthep is the perfect example of how a mix of natural beauty and tourism can go wrong.

Once, the outstanding view from the cape must have been special. These days, the cape is just a large car park and a row of souvenir shops, with a sunset attached.

This kind of man-made development is precisely the reason why Phuket has slipped close to the bottom of the list when it comes to grading the natural beauty of islands around the world.

The islands at the top of the list preserve their environment in its natural state and limit the impact of visitors who come to enjoy it.

Phuket is doing just the opposite: ''developing'' its natural beauty and opening the door to as many visitors who can be packed onto flights . . . and into carparks.

The well-meaning people behind these kinds of schemes fail to realise the permanent damage that comes with projects of the kind that are designed to promote ''sustainable'' tourism.

The word ''sustainable'' is used to disguise the real purpose: development, plus a little profit.

What's really needed is preservation, without compromises.

The ''museum'' proposed for this 700-milion baht project would cover 31 rai. There will be a zoo, too.

And we imagine the car park would be huge, because space will have to be found for all those buses.

We guess there will have to be at least one row of souvenir shops, and maybe a collection of fast-food outlets.

The island does not need more museums. It does not need more zoos. It does not need another car park.

It needs to keep its remaining beauty alive, and protected. It needs careful conservation. It needs protectors, not project managers.

We hate to say it, but this 'Sea Natural History Museum'' sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Phuket, it seems, wants to have its cape, and eat it, too. We hope it never happens.

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Joni Mitchell said it best: They took all the trees Put em in a tree museum; And they charged the people A dollar and a half just to see em

Posted by Roberta on July 2, 2008 09:48


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