The Beach

Posted on September 14, 2020 at 09:30 AM

Maya Bay Koh Phi Phi Thailand

 

Back in 2017 I recall reading an online article about places on earth that have been “ruined by humans”. Usually these items are just click-bait, but this one actually struck a nerve and it got me thinking about the dilemma that we face between satisfying our thirst for travel/discovery, and the impact that travel has on the world around us.

There is little doubt that there are places on our beautiful planet where mass tourism or over-construction has had a hugely detrimental effect on the local environment.

A very good example is Maya Bay on the island of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. Maya Bay is where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed and following the success of the movie it became a must-see destination for tourists and film fans. Over the next 15 or so years the sheer number of people and boats in the bay (and surrounding area) had a devastating effect of the ecosystem – especially the coral reef and supported marine life.

In 2018 the Thai authorities made the bold (and some say late) decision to close the bay to tourists to let the area recover. They have since planted 1,000s of corals and restricted all but essential boats as well as a huge amount of other conservation work. This is already having a magical effect on the area and the coral is slowly recovering (coral grows only a centimetre or so a year) and already the marine life is returning.

It was a brave and controversial action to close this area, as tourism generated almost all of the income for the region, as well as creating jobs for the local people. However, conservationists and the Government recognised that something had to be done immediately or the damage would be permanent. It is a lesson to us all that making the change worked.

So, can we continue to travel and experience the beauty of our planet without killing it in the process? In truth, no one can be sure, but we do know the world needs to continue to look for better fuel and energy solutions, sustainable construction methods, recycling advances and moderation of consumption. Whether this means people taking less holidays, companies choosing an eco-promotional pen, not buying single-use plastics or stopping building on green-belt land – every person and organisation has a part to play.

Russ Platt - August 2020

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