Thailand Environment Minister dived in himself to see the sorry condition of Pattaya’s coral reefs following viral photos of tourists manhandling the sensitive creatures.
Environment and Natural Resources Minister Verawat Silpa-archa suited up with wetsuit and air tank off Koh Larn April 3.
Scuba divers have criticized Pattaya’s reefs for decades, bemoaning the abuse they’ve taken from pollution, fishing boat anchors and “sea walkers”, who are untrained divers using surface-supplied air to walk on the ocean bottom.
Recent photos showed tourist sea walkers picking up and moving coral, which can be killed simply by being touched.
“Natural coral and marine animals require many tens of years to rehabilitate,” Verawat said. “Today’s damage will take tens of years to recover.”
On land, the minister also toured Koh Larn with Chonburi Gov. Pakarathorn Thienchai and Pattaya Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome.
They inspected the island’s overburdened sewage treatment plant, which cannot handle all the waste produced by the island’s 700 homes and thousands of daily tourists.
Sonthaya updated the minister on the pursuit of funding to build a second treatment plant on the island.
The officials also toured the island’s dumpsite, where a backlog of more than 80,000 tons of rubbish has piled up since 2013.
Sonthaya said a contractor this month will begin to burn 20 tons of trash a day to eliminate the backlog, a process that will take three years.
Verawat said the long-term solution would be a waste-to-energy incinerator on the island.