The issue of wastewater on our major tourist beaches gets passing recognition each year, but the simple infrastructure needed to deal with the problem still fails to arrive in time to stave off incident after incident.
Only on Jan 18 this year, Pralong Dumrongthai, Director General of Pollution Control Department (PCD), in his statement on the Thailand State of Pollution 2018 report noted, “The major courses of deteriorated water and coastal water quality were the insufficient wastewater treatment systems.”
The PCD has for years warned of the impact of wastewater on the environment, health and tourism.
“Solid waste, waste and effluent from resort restaurants and other service places, as well as oil spills caused by travel and passenger boats, cause seawater quality to deteriorate.” the PCD itself noted in 2017.
“These problems have resulted in coastal resources, the underwater marine ecosystem as well as the scenery of tourist attractions to deteriorate and affect the health of tourists and local people, and has an impact on tourism and the economy.”
And still wastewater is low on official agendas. The only understanding we can make of this is the attitude that when you’re busy offloading a public relations offensive after an incident involving tourists dying, you can afford to ignore them getting sick.
The days of Phuket officials relying on the annual southwest monsoon and passing storms to flush out our bays and to pretend that putrid canals don’t cast a stain on our tourism industry – never mind the health of local people – are long gone. The number of people on the island has passed the tipping point for our natural resources to soak up our spillage.
As such, we’ll take any move in the right direction. The Bang Tao wastewater plant has taken far too long to arrive, and along with the Surin Beach plant comes at a heady cost of B335 million – but we’ll take it anyway.
It’s better than having nothing at all.