Letter: Paradise will be lost in rubbish and noise

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The Independent Online
Sir: It was with very mixed feelings that I read Simon Calder's article on southern Thailand ('A close approximation to paradise', 17 September), in particular the section on Koh Phi Phi. I have visited Koh Phi Phi several times in recent years, and on my last trip in April it was with enormous sadness that I decided that in conscience I cannot go there again, so appalled was I by the very visible consequences of heavy tourism.

Every day on the white sand of idyllic Haad Yao beach the tide brings in quantities of plastic bottles, styrofoam food containers, cans, sun cream bottles and polystyrene blocks from the life-jackets handed out in boat trips. Run your fingers through the sand - cigarette butts in abundance. The turquoise water is noticeably cloudier than in past years and sometimes adorned with thick yellow scum. When the tide is out, people clamber over the exposed coral reef, mindless of the notice begging them not to.

The water in Ton Sai bay is greasy and stinks of petrol from numerous pleasure boats, and at night the once peaceful village is enlivened by the sounds of gunfire from a dozen Rambo videos and blaring music from bars and restaurants. Simon Calder is pleased at the availability of pizza - no doubt the choice of food will soon be further enriched by McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. On uninhabited Phi Phi Leh, building is (so far) prohibited but I have seen huge mounds of plastic water bottles left behind by day-trippers.

Koh Phi Phi simply cannot cope with this level of tourism without irreparable damage to the ecosystem. Thai journalists and environmentalists have expressed grave concern at the effects of unrestricted tourism on this precious and unique group of islands - supposedly protected by national park status; and the Lonely Planet guide goes so far as to suggest a boycott of travel to Koh Phi Phi.

The Thai authorities have a responsibility to protect Koh Phi Phi before it is too late - if it is not already - but newspapers should not be contributing to the problem by unquestioningly encouraging even heavier tourism.

Yours etc,

STEPHANIE O'BRIEN

London, NW10

19 September

(Photograph omitted)

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