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The idyllic Thai island battling an extreme water crisis after being overrun by tourists

Local official says steps being taken to avoid ‘disaster zone’ label for major tourist destination

Maroosha Muzaffar
Tuesday 04 July 2023 13:16 BST
Lamai Beach on Koh Samui island in Thailand
Lamai Beach on Koh Samui island in Thailand (iStock)

A popular tourist island in Thailand is facing a severe water crisis caused by a rush of tourists combined and a decline in rainfall.

Local reports said many water reserves on Koh Samui – such as the Phru Na Mueang and Phru Krajud reservoirs along with Hin Lard waterfall – have seen a drop in their water levels, aggravating the freshwater crisis.

According to local estimates, the remaining water is sufficient only for the next 30 days.

Due to the water crisis on the island, the tourist paradise is also seeing numbers dwindle.

According to reports, taps in resorts on the island are starting to run dry, but authorities are reportedly working to fix the situation.

Sutham Samthong, a deputy mayor of Koh Samui, has urged residents and tourists alike to use water judiciously. He said that with careful management, freshwater on the island can last till the next two months, after which he said rains are expected.

“We are not complacent. We are trying to solve the situation. We don’t want the provincial or upper [administration] to announce that Koh Samui is a disaster zone,” he told The Guardian.

According to Ratchaporn Poonsawat, the chair of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, the crisis might force resort owners and local businesses to buy freshwater which will result in a surge in costs.

“The mounting costs associated with the shortage could also adversely affect the livelihood of hospitality workers on the island. If water supplies continue to deplete, these hard-working individuals might be forced to bear higher living costs,” he said, according to Thai news website The Thaiger.

Bangkok Post reported that because of the shortage, locals are now starting to buy freshwater at 250BHT (£5.64) to 300BHT (£6.76) for 2,000 litres of water for their daily use.

There are also concerns that due to the El Nino weather phenomenon – which is associated with less rain – the island might see even more severe shortages in the next few months.

At least one million tourists visited Koh Samui island in the past five months, according to local media.

To ease the water crisis on the island, authorities are using an underwater pipeline from the Surat Thani province on the Thai mainland. Koh Samui, according to the deputy mayor, requires around 30,000 cubic metres of water a day. The pipeline is able to meet 24,000 cubic metres so far.

Prateep Kusolwattana, director-general of the Provincial Waterworks Authority said this operation, which began last Saturday, will be repeated every other day until the water situation returns to normal.

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