Coastal erosion hits popular Andaman resort island of Phuket, Thailand

Coastal erosion hits popular Andaman resort island of Phuket

Shorelines generally adapt to a natural balance when strong winds in the monsoon season take away sediments from the coast, but the sediments are accumulated again in the next season. The problem of coastal erosion, however, has been worsening and is particularly worrisome in the resort island of Phuket where the Andaman coastline counts as one of its primary tourist attractions.

On Lepang Beach in Thalang district, some three kilometres of the western shoreline have suffered heavily due to erosion.

Some local residents complain that coastal erosion is occurring at an average rate of as much as 10 metres a year, a serious problem which has been contributed to both by nature and man-made coastal development.

As the gradient at the Lepang shoreline is steep, sand will quickly flow into the sea when coastal erosion occurs at the lower part of the coast and especially during the heavier storms of the monsoon season.

Erosion and soil subsidence also causes the loss of some pine trees on the beachfront, resulting in a heavier scale of erosion.

Surawong Tientong, chair of the Standing Committee on Prevention and Mitigation on the Effect from Natural and Public Disaster of the House of Representatives, said another spot affected by erosion on Phuket’s west coast is the shoreline close to Phuket International Airport.

The problem in both areas is due to the ebb tide and to mangrove deforestation. The clearing was to build homes and businesses.

In 1996, authorities tried to stabilise the erosion problem by filling sand in the area and improving the environment along the coast. Local entrepreneurs and coastal communities have also put up sandbag dykes and embankments for shoreline protection.

“The monsoon season on the Andaman shore lasts from May to September. Strong winds make higher waves and the waves strongly hit the shoreline and pull sand in that area back to the sea”, a Phuket resident noted.

According to the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), over 10 sites on Phuket face coastal erosion, mostly owing to unsuitable land adjustment along the seashore like deforestation for construction in response to the rising demands of tourism.

Officials concerned have recently checked the actual areas and are now seeking resolution and preventive measures to cope with the problem.

“Based on an official report, the Phuket shoreline has still not been much impacted by coastal erosion, but we are now in the process of studying how to tackle the problem and how eliminate its affect on tourism. These two things must go together”, said Mr Surawong.

According to statistics of the Phuket Tourism and Sports Office, the number of inbound tourists to the province in 2008 reached around 8.7 million, of whom some 5.5 million were Thais, while in the first quarter of 2009, about 620,000 tourists visited Phuket, of which 86,000 were Thais.