Thailand to close the famous Koh Tachai Island
Thai authorities announced that the famous Koh Tachai Island, which is located in the Andaman Sea, would be closed for visitors/tourists. The decision was taken to protect the island, which once had pristine beaches surrounded by coral reefs, from the adverse effects of tourism. The island is a part of 'Similan National Park' in southern Thailand; it would be closed indefinitely from 15 Oct'16.
Koh Tachai or simply Tachai Island is a part of the Similan Islands in Thailand, which is located in the Andaman Sea. Similan Islands are a group of 11 islands; Mu Ko Similan, a national park, comprises of all the 11 Similan Islands. The Thai Department of National Parks assigned numbers to all the 11 islands, which collectively occupy an area of 140 sqkm.
Koh Tachai is situated near Koh Similan and Surin Islands; it was added to the Similan Island group in 1998. After the 2004 Tsunami, Tachai was rediscovered by a person called Ta Chai, hence the name Koh Tachai. The island is also nicknamed 'Maldives of Thailand' for its naturally beautiful, crystal clear sea; several varieties of crabs on the island are the star attraction.
Originally, Koh Tachai's name was 'Koh Bua'. Bua was the name of a unique lotus flower that used to bloom on the island before the 2004 Tsunami hit the place. Bua was wiped out after the tragedy.
Thailand's popular tourist destination had reportedly suffered from overcrowding as visitors, especially from China and other countries, were increasing every year. In 2015, the number of foreign visitors was 30 million, which was record-breaking.
Tourism contributes to 10% of the Thailand's GDP; but, tourists also complain of overcrowding on Koh Tachai. According to authorities, the island's beach should hold only 70 people but, the current number is over 1000, which called for closing the entry to the island. Authorities strictly warned tour operators and stated that divers would have access to only some areas around the island.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, Deputy Dean of Fisheries-Kasetsart University, stated that the sands "were already crowded with food stalls and tour boats. This caused the island to deteriorate quickly. If it's not closed now, we'll lose Koh Tachai permanently."
Reportedly, the tiny island was not only popular among tourists but, also among day-trippers who visit the island from the mainland. The location of the island, white sand beaches, colorful coral, leopard sharks, manta rays, and varieties of crabs contributed to the island's beauty. But, unfortunately, its beauty had become a threat as overcrowding resulted in degradation of the island's environment and resources.
Tunya Netithammakul, Director General-Department of National Parks, stated, "We have to close it to allow the rehabilitation of the environment both on the island and in the sea without being disturbed by tourism activities before the damage is beyond repair."