‘The Beach’ to stay closed for two more years

Popular spot: Maya Bay inundated by swarms of tourists and numerous boats dropping anchor into its pristine waters before it was closed near Phi Phi Island, Thailand. — dpa

BANGKOK: Thailand’s popular Maya Bay will remain closed to tourists for at least two more years, a prominent marine ecologist overseeing coral rehabilitation efforts at the beach said.

The pristine beach on the southern island of Koh Phi Phi, popularised by the 2000 movie The Beach, was closed for the first time 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, a marine ecology professor at Kasetsart University in Bangkok.

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 some 4,000 tourists each day, more than the actual capacity of the beach.

After the reopening, it is expected that only about 2,000 people will be allowed to visit the beach per day. — dpa

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