DNP extends Thailand’s Maya Bay closure for two more years

- A Monitor Desk Report 09 May, 2019 | 4149 Views|-+
Dhaka: The closure of Thailand's famed Maya Bay has been extended for another two years to allow a full recovery of its corals and wildlife, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) announced on May 8. It is now due to reopen in mid 2021.

The pristine beach on the southern island of Koh Phi Phi, made famous by the 2000’s movie The Beach, was closed for the first time last year in June after it was discovered that most of its coral had been damaged by boat anchors.

The government initially planned to close the beach for four months, but decided later to keep it closed longer without a definite timeframe.

"The rehabilitation efforts take time. It's especially difficult when most of the corals were dead," said Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat, Professor – Marine Ecology, Kasetsart University.

More than 23,000 new corals have been planted since last year's closure, he said, but it remains to be seen how many of them have been bleached due to the strong summer sun.

Thailand's overall coral damage has reached a "critical" level, with an alarming increase over the past decade, Dr Thon said, adding that the country's booming tourism industry is to blame.

Some 38.2 million tourists visited Thailand in 2018, up from 35 million the year before.

At Maya Bay alone, there were 5,000 tourists each day, more than the actual capacity of the beach. After the reopening, Dr. Thon said the number of daily visitors will be limited to 2,400 a day in peak season. Time limits are also likely to be put in place.

An online booking system will be introduced with Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park to serve as a pilot project, he noted. This aims to limit the number of visitors and reduce corruption, making sure all entry fees are fed into state coffers.

However, the closure extension was warranted because the department needs to not only protect the environment but also develop more facilities there including a walking board, a dock for tourist boats, toilets and a residence for officials, said Dr. Thon who is also a member of the national park’s committee.

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