Urgent Response to the Environmental Crisis
On August 8th, 2023, local authorities in Phuket mobilized quickly to address an oil slick that washed up on the shores of Koh Racha Yai, a popular tourist destination in Muang district. The Thai Maritime Enforcement Command Centre’s Region 3 was alerted to the presence of oil slicks on Patok and Siam beaches, prompting immediate action.
Navy and Locals Join Forces for Cleanup
To tackle the troubling situation, the navy dispatched coastal patrol personnel to aid in cleaning up the affected areas. Help arrived at around 6:30 AM on Monday, with the team working against the clock, fearing that the solidified slick could liquify in the sunlight and make removal more difficult.
Before the official team reached the island, hotel operators and local residents had already begun cleaning up some of the oil. By the end of the day, approximately 90% of the slick had been cleared from the beaches.
Identifying the Source and Ensuring Accountability
Although the majority of the oil slick has been removed, there is still uncertainty about whether more oil will wash ashore. The Maritime Enforcement Command Centre, along with other related agencies such as the natural resources and Phuket marine offices, plan to file a complaint with Chalong police once the responsible party is identified.
The oil spill is believed to have originated from a tanker that carelessly released contaminated water, used for cleaning oil storage compartments, into the sea. The impact on the marine environment surrounding Koh Racha Yai is considered immeasurable, as the island is known for its pristine dive sites and beautiful beaches.
Environmental and Tourism Impact
The oil slick has already caused significant harm to marine life, with a reported sea turtle death after being covered in oil. Local tourism has also been affected, as swimmers and beachgoers were understandably upset by the pollution. Apiromrudee Mahawongsanant, a tourism operator on Koh Racha Yai, expressed concern, noting that this is the first time in his 30 years of business that he has encountered an oil slick.
Removing and Disposing of the Oil Slick
Deputy Mayor of tambon Rawai municipality, Theerapong Thaidaeng, stated that about a tonne of the oil slick was removed from the beaches, with some being disposed of in a sand pit. Continued efforts to clean up and restore the affected area will be crucial in preserving both the environment and the island’s tourism industry.
With the ongoing investigations and collaborative efforts of multiple agencies and locals, there is hope for a rapid resolution to this environmental crisis. The incident serves as a reminder of the importance of responsible practices in maintaining the delicate balance between human activity and preserving our natural resources.