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Lanta Island’s big clean-up

Stéphane Hanot  Sep 16, 2008

Krabi, Thailand (eTN) - For the second year, Koh Lanta in Krabi organized a beach-cleaning day, hoping to raise more awareness among local population to stop dumping garbage on the beaches. Getting id of all the garbage seems a Sisyphus task, according to Kanyarat Kosavisutte, Coordinator for Green Fins Project, a UNEP supported organization.

“It takes time to change people’s mentality and to raise awareness among local and visitors. But if we do not do anything, we will not generate hope to live in a better world, especially for future generations,” she explained. The second edition took place on September 13, 2008 and generated increased support from local communities as well as volunteers.

Over 100 volunteers came from Bangkok, with a large delegation sent by news agency Reuters-Thomson. Many local hotels and tour operators sent also their staff to help cleaning all beaches around the island. “We think that over 400 people participated this year against 300 last year,” added Kosavisutte. “We collected last year three tons of garbage and unfortunately, it should be far more this year.”

For the 2008 edition – which received the support of the Tourism Authority of Thailand- Green Fins Project initiated also an education project in Lanta Island’s schools. “It is urgent to attract children’s attention about the need to protect their environment. We organized a photo contest on the damage generated by littering in the sea, the way to recycle products and the way to change behaviors,” said Kosavisutte, “A Phuket artist, Pom, visited children to show them how to turn garbage into pieces of art. Another company also exhibits toys made out of garbage recycling.”

Green Fins Project helps also to manage waste and water resources or to preserve coral reef. So far the grouping-which still seeks an association status- has attracted some 100 members in Thailand and gained sponsoring from Siam Cement and Siam Commercial Bank. However, beside the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the group seems to encounter difficulties to get a more active support from Government’s agencies. Officials in the country continue to be more supportive of large-scale development projects than preservation initiatives for the environment.

“Government’s officials never listen to local communities and prefer to bow in front of big businessmen,” said Prachip, a community representative for the sea gypsies living around Lanta island.

Kanyarat Kosavisutte rapidly points out that keeping Koh Lanta clean is almost an impossible task. “More hotels, more facilities are added year after year with the perspective that the island will soon face similar environmental problems which are already experienced in Samui or Phuket. It is a pity but we cannot fight against money” she said.

“Tourism development is already affecting local communities in their daily life. A zoning map should be established for the island with the West coast being affected to tourism and the East being kept out of large development in a way to protect local communities as well as their religious practice [the island is almost 100 percent Muslim],” added Prachip.

Another acute problem on Lanta Island is garbage recycling. Little has been done so far with tons of garbage piling in a dump just in the centre of the island. “We must urgently build a dump facility with the possibility to separate and recycle litter,” explains Didier Vacher, new GM of the Relax Bay resort. As authorities seem to be slow to react, he will grasp the initiative. “We will do a world tour by tuk-tuk next year, going from France to Thailand via over 20 countries on 36,400 km around the world to raise funds. We estimate that it would cost €170,000 to build a cement road, six containers to sort out garbage and probably to buy an electric vehicle to carry the garbage to the continent to a recycling plant."

Vacher’s tuk-tuk World Tour will not be his fist experience. He already traveled the world in a tuk-tuk last year from Thailand to France, passing by countries such as Bangladesh, Iran or Pakistan. “ I wanted to prove that the world is safe for travelers,” he says. His tour next year will add a green dimension to his challenge and make also Koh Lanta better known from a wider public.

Lanta Island’s big clean-up

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