The outlet from which polluted water spills onto Phuket’s Karon beach whenever overflows occur at the municipal treatment plant without offering any warnings to residents or tourists and on an excessively frequent basis has been visited on Monday by Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha along with around 15 Thai media representatives. Neither the freshly painted gate, nor its surroundings offered any indications of the health hazards the area poses whenever overflows occur.
After admitting on Monday that polluted waste water sometimes flows across Karon beach into the sea when the treatment system is overloaded, local authorities also stated that precise records of when such situations happen are not kept. This comes across as even more worrying when considering one official admitted that most heavy rains, which are quite common on Phuket during certain times of the year, lead to overflows.
Although the scale of the pollution currently seems local, unless it is quickly taken care of, the impact will soon become international, as the German television broadcasting the well-known series “Wir Retten Ihren Urlaub!” (“We Save Your Holiday!”) is planning to screen several segments regarding the issue on Phuket. If local authorities have slowly disregarded the increasing pressure to solve the problem, the fact that the German show covered a similar story in Turkey repeatedly until authorities fixed it due to continuously losing tourists might force them to have a second thought.
However, not everyone finds the threat such bad publicity across Europe and Russia brings to Phuket obvious. Essentials such as transparency and honesty, which more and more tourists demand nowadays, are still lackadaisical on Phuket. Despite one of the plant’s officials stating yesterday that the big hotels in Karon respect waste water treatment regulations and treat their residues before letting them flow into the communal system, it was also estimated that around 200 hotels remain unregistered in Karon. Consequently, they may not respect the rules regarding waste treatment.
Furthermore, sources who had access to part of the footage shot by the German team suggested that the tests conducted by the producers on the seawater off Karon revealed the presence of faecal matter despite not being taken after heavy rains.
According to residents on Phuket, the problem of untreated residual waters beign discharged directly into the sea is not unique to Karon, other beaches facing it as well. However, local authorities only test Phuket’s water quality once every three months.
In a previous official statement, Karon officials said that the problem had been caused by a power failure, which permitted an excessive amount of polluted waste water to flow across the beach and into the sea. After rerouteing the electricity supply, however, the issue was not expected to repeat itself. Attention now needs to be focused on actually respecting that guarantee.
As the German television show’s producers are expected to return to Karon and Phuket early next month, how their findings will compare to international standards will indicate whether Phuket’s tourism future remains grossly murky or whether it is becoming clearer and clearer.