Phi Phi Is " Loved to Death "
By Moeun Chhean Nariddh, Cambodia Communication Institute,
When Sarah McLean came to Phi Phi Island off the southern coast of
Thailand in 1974, she found nothing but crystal clear water, trees, birds,
fish and clean beaches in a " perfect " environment.
However, 14 years
later when she returned to the island, she was so " shocked " to see
the changes and damage to its beauty she vowed she " would never come back
Phi Phi is now a popular tourist destination. Seaside
resorts, restaurants, massage parlors and souvenir shops abound. Tourists
stream in and out every hour to enjoy its sea, sun and sand. In return,
the island gets rubbish, waste water and destruction.
is [that] development here is very crude," Mrs. McLean, Project
Director of the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation, told a group of
Indochina journalists she was leading on a visit to the island.
This is just awful," she shook her head, pointing at the waste water and
rubbish scattered around.
Mrs. McLean’s version of the once
peaceful Phi Phi was shared by many who knew the island in the early days,
including Surat Jeawkok, a member of the villagers’
Surat said when he moved from neighboring Krabi province
14 years ago there was only one bungalow and a few yachts. " It was
paradise for me," he said.
However, the current flow of tourists,
added to the 2,500 local businessmen and villagers, is overstraining the
capacity of the island.
According to Surat, who is also the office
manager of the Sun Smile Tours, about 1,000 tourists visit Phi Phi every
day during the high season. The number goes down to 500 during the low
season, he said.
Surat said there are two types of tourists – "
day-trippers ", who come for a swim, a snorkel and sun bath, and those who
stay over night for one or two days.
Although most tourists,
especially those from Western countries, try to keep Phi Phi clean, many
Asian visitors, Surat said, do not behave well. They throw rubbish or
plastics around, he said.
The problem is compounded by the poor rubbish
collection system. Usually, according to Surat, all the rubbish would be
taken back to its dumping site in Krabi province. But this does not always
happen. Some local people burn the rubbish in a big pit behind their
As development continues, Surat said things have become
more "difficult to control". He blamed the local provincial administration
and the government for not paying enough attention to the
"The government [only] thinks about getting money from
tourists", he complained.
Phi Phi has also suffered from a lack of
waste water treatment since the plant stopped working two years ago.
Currently, the waste water ends up flowing into the sea.
"If I talk
to the committee of local people [to repair it], they say ‘next month,
next month, next month’," he said, citing possible corruption among
those in charge.
In an effort to protect the national parks from
further development, the government has passed a law banning construction
inside its territories. But, according to Surat, many resort owners have
land titles on Phi Phi Island and are continuing to build accommodation
for more visitors.
Today, as the number of tourists has tripled on
the " most beautiful " island in the kingdom, Phi Phi is in danger of
being " loved to death."