Environmental Effects of Tourism on Thai Coral Reefs

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  • Topic: Coral reef, Great Barrier Reef, Coral bleaching
  • Pages : 9 (3477 words )
  • Download(s) : 174
  • Published : January 16, 2011
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The tourism industry has grown exponentially over the previous twenty years, it is now a worldwide industry, both in terms of tourists and host destinations, and ‘is no longer confined to the developed countries that traditionally provided the demand for world travel’ (Page & Connell, 2006, pp.4). World leaders have long been recognising the huge economic advantages that a booming tourism industry can bring to their nations, and vast amounts of money have been invested set up the infrastructure to support such an industry. However, aside from the large economic advantages to the industry, there are inevitably negative impacts to the host nation and the world as a whole. These negative impacts usually materialise in the form of environmental or socio-cultural issues; and in many cases, these have all but been pushed aside, with economic advantages prevailing over all else. Only recently has the world started to become aware that if they do not protect their precious touristic resources; the invaluable industry will soon die out. The following essay will look in depth at the declining state of Thailand’s coral reefs in relation to its continually growing tourism industry, and discuss the reasons for this negative environmental effect. It will then go on to explore the methods of sustainable tourism employed by other nations who are suffering the same problems, and judge to what extent, and with how much success, these methods could be integrated into the Thai system. Tourism is having a major negative environmental impact on coral reefs and the marine life that habituate around them all over the world, and Thailand is no exception. Tourism affects coral reefs in both a direct and indirect manner. The most obvious sign of coral death is when it loses all its vibrant colours and a turns a milky white colour; this is known as bleaching. There are algae that live in the coral that give it its colour, bleaching occurs when these algae either leave or die, leaving the coral transparent and exposing the white shell underneath (Ocean World, 2004). The primary indirect source of reef damage is increased CO2 emissions and global warming, which has been steadily increasing the temperature and acidity of the world’s oceans for many years now. It is this increased acidification and sea temperature that has had such a substantial diminishing affect on the coral reefs, as corals have evolved to survive within a fairly specific environment (Adam, 2009); even increases of one degree in temperature can have a serious impact. Obviously it would be massively inappropriate to apportion all of the blame for global warming with the tourism industry; however, with all the travel and energy consumption related to tourism, it has to be held accountable for the impact global warming has on the coral reefs. Thailand’s east coast, on the western side of the Gulf of Thailand, is notably susceptible to typhoons. Typhoon Gay hit this area in 1989 causing widespread damage to the coral reefs. While scientists have never been able to find any evidence that the increasing number of typhoons is related to global warming, some of them strongly believe that there has to be a correlation between the rising sea temperatures and the increased intensity and duration of typhoons (Roach, 2005). This can only be translated as a greater threat to the coral reefs off Thailand’s east coast. The worst hit coral reefs around Thailand are in the areas where a major coastal development has occurred. This is most apparent around the island of Phuket. In the early eighties tourism in Phuket really took off; to support this huge boom in tourism, there has been wide spread development and the building of resorts. When the tsunami hit Thailand in 2004 much of this was destroyed, and has since had to be re-built. If construction work in coastal areas is badly managed it can lead to the poor removal of waste, which ultimately ends up with large amounts of sedimentation and other...
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