Phuket Opinion: Saving the village

PHUKET: The community project to transform the village at Koh Siray into a clean, self-sustaining “ecosystem” is a formidable challenge, but one worthy of taking note.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 5 May 2019, 11:00AM

Volunteers at the Koh Siray clean-up.

Volunteers at the Koh Siray clean-up.

Personnel from the HMAS Canberra visited the village on Monday (Apr 29) to participate in a clean-up and help establish the kindergarten as a sustain­able centre with fresh drinking water and a garden.

The visit was part of a wider goodwill project spon­sored by the Australian Depart­ment of Foreign Affairs and Trade with some lofty goals: to transform Koh Siray and reduce waste to zero.

However, the project does tick very big boxes in what is needed to make this happen: it aims to break the poverty cycle by promoting local waste man­agement and increasing house­hold incomes by empowering villagers to create products to sell in local markets.

These are among the poor­est people in Phuket, simple villagers who live on the fringe of society. Any extra form of income is most welcome, and likely to motivate.

Most arguments for saving the planet from plastic tend to shy away from the motivation needed for the tremendous change required to achieve this. The short of it is that the result in the change in behaviour must have immediate positive benefit to each person involved.

Yes, selfish it is, and self­ish does work. Think hotels and the latest fad of banning single-use plastics. There is no argument here, but it cannot be denied that it is a great selling point and literally costs the hotel less to implement, while doing the right thing.

Compare that to the people still dumping piles of garbage beside our roads all over the island. No direct immediate benefit for not doing so results in zero change in behaviour, no matter how wrong it is.

The empowerment of vil­lagers to understand that tack­ling pollution is nothing more than a personal responsibility is crucial. Global pollution can be defeated by the combined willingness of individuals.

Also, for motivation, as soon as there’s an understand­ing that waste has value, people will find a way of making money from it – and the object will literally not go to waste.

Further, if successful, the Koh Siray village project will prove one thing: if it can be done there, it can be done anywhere. If people living among such impoverished conditions can change their own little world, there is no excuse for anyone else living beyond those meagre incomes for not doing the same.



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Kurt | 06 May 2019 - 11:40:19

Saving, cleaning Koh Siray has to come from inside. From the people/community who live there, who dump garbage all over the island and in the water. The only 'volunteers' going there should be environment professionals who teach the locals to learn not to pollute and clean by themselves as it will be much better for their living conditions and own health.
Change mind setting, no more!

BenPendejo | 05 May 2019 - 22:29:05

This is a tall order indeed. My wife and I visited this area a few years ago and we were appalled at the amount of trash throughout this community.  They have simply grown up around it, and see no problems with it. The village was filled with salas occupied by very large people that were mostly lazing around and the middle of the day.  I hope for the best, but not placing any bets.

CaptainJack69 | 05 May 2019 - 18:42:12

Hmm. good points. Lets not forget though that the biggest responsibility by far rests with the manufacturers and primary retailers. If the supermarkets stop individually wrapping pastries in plastic, for instance, it costs the consumer nothing at all. What it does do however, is raise general awareness, which is half the battle.

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