Park closures to become annual events

Park closures to become annual events

Environment minister says natural habitat needs regular recovery breaks from tourism

Maya Bay has become a symbol of how difficult it can be to restore the natural environment after years of mass tourism. (Photo courtesy of Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park)
Maya Bay has become a symbol of how difficult it can be to restore the natural environment after years of mass tourism. (Photo courtesy of Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park)

Authorities plan to close the country’s national parks for several months each year to reduce environmental damage at popular tourist spots, says Varawut Silpa-archa, the environment and natural resources minister.

The closure of the parks during the coronavirus pandemic has allowed the natural habitat to recover from the hordes of tourist crowds and brought a return of wildlife, like whales and turtles, to Thailand’s world-famous beaches, Mr Varawut said.

Authorities now want to close the parks annually for two to four months at a time, starting from next year, in order to improve the conservation of the areas, he said.

“This is so that nature can rehabilitate itself and the park rangers can improve the parks,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg in Bangkok.

Thailand has more than 100 national parks, which cover the mountain regions in the north to tropical islands in the south, containing popular attractions such as the Phi Phi Islands and Phangnga Bay.

More than 20 million people visited national parks in the 2019 fiscal year and contributed 2.2 billion baht in park fees, according to data from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

However, some beaches, islands and other natural attractions have struggled to cope with the number of foreign visitors, which reached nearly 40 million in 2019. The government predicts the number of visitors will plummet to less than 7 million this year because of Covid-related travel bans.

Mr Varawut said the park closures woukld be staggered across the country.

Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh, made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, will remain closed until much of the area has recovered from the damage of mass tourism, the minister said, adding that the bay’s coral reefs could take up to 40 years to return.


Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (72)

Thailand in a green rush

BURI RAM: People flocked to a cannabis exhibition as interest and demand in the plant surges after the government unlocked hemp use in food and cosmetics in the latest move to promote a new cash crop.

19:01

Bail denied for WeVo guard leader

The Criminal Court has denied bail for Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, leader of Ratsadon guards, but allowed 14 other people held on Saturday to temporarily walk free.

18:39

Navy ship's anchor causes blackout on Samui, Phangan

SURAT THANI: An anchor dropped by a navy ship damaged an underwater cable supplying power to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan on Monday, causing a widespread blackout, a Provincial Electricity Authority official said.

18:16