Beach closures in Southeast Asia so that nature can recover
The relationship between tourism and nature is not a very easy one. On the one side tourism can have a positive effect on the environment as it contributes to environmental protection and conservation, but on the other side it can leave a negative imprint on nature. This also true for the most beautiful coral reefs and beaches in Southeast Asia. Ocean Plant confirms that "there are 109 countries with coral reefs. In 90 of them reefs are being damaged by cruise ship anchors and sewage, by tourists breaking off chunks of coral, and by commercial harvesting for sale to tourists." Authorities in Thailand have now confirmed that they will temporarily close their most famous beach Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh, which was made famous through Leonardo DiCaprio's movie "The Beach", in order to tackle these challenges. Maya Bay will not be accessible by tourists for 4 months starting in June. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine expert in Bangkok, says that more than three-quarters of Thailand’s coral reefs have been damaged by rising sea temperatures and unchecked tourism.
The government in the Philippines is also thinking of closing beaches such as Boracay to protect the environment. This is of course not an easy step as in that region for example 36,000 jobs in tourism depend on incoming tourists. Thailand too depends heavily on tourism as it contributes 12% to its economic turnover.
However, although the price is high, it is critically important to protect these beaches and oceans for future generations. Another challenge is plastic waste as it not only pollutes the ocean and the beaches but also harms animals. Thailand for example is one of the world’s largest users of plastic bags which puts animals such as turtles, pilot whales and dolphins in great danger.
For more information on beach closures: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southeast-asia-tourism-environment/southeast-asia-closes-island-beaches-to-recover-from-climate-change-and-tourism-idUSKBN1H3209
For more information on environment impacts of tourism: https://www.gdrc.org/uem/eco-tour/envi/one.html
For more information on plastic waste on animals: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/03/whale-dies-from-eating-more-than-80-plastic-bags