Thailand’s famed Phi Phi island faces severe lack of clean water

Thailand’s popular Phi Phi island faces a severe lack of clean water due to poor management of the local tourism industry, a researcher said on Thursday. Best known as the filming location for the 2000 Hollywood blockbuster”The Beach,” Phi Phi island is visited by up to 10,000 tourists each day. But the environmental damage caused by tourism has led to an indefinite closure of the island’s Maya Bay since June.
The bay’s previously damaged coral reefs have recuperated, with videos of dozens of reef sharks in the area being circulated on social media last week.
However, the island is facing another environmental and health hazard, according to Sitang Pilailar, a leading researcher on water resources at Bangkok’s Kasetsart University.
The island’s non-drinking water supply has been contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium and manganese as well as E colibacteria, Sitang said.
“I’ve heard of complaints about bad water quality and skin rashes as a result. But there could be more serious health problems if the water is used to wash the dishes and food ingredients,” the researcher said.
According to Sitang, the island’s entire water supply is monopolized by a single tourism operator who has allegedly released water with a high concentration of salt back to the sea and inland as part of its drinking water production.
“This can cause seawater intrusion. If the situation is left unchanged, there might not be any clean water left on the island in the next five years,” she said.
The high number of tourists on the island has also led to 2,500 cubic metres of waste water being generated per day, six times higher than the amount the island can manage, the researcher said.
“There is no need to reduce the number of tourists on the island at the moment, but more tourist arrivals would definitely create more problems,” she added.
Thailand’s booming tourism industry, which contributes to more than20 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, has seen a constant rise in tourist numbers, from 32 million visitors in 2016 to35 million in 2017, and an estimated 38 million this year. — dpa