After Thailand announced an indefinite closure of the ever-popular Maya Bay last week, the national park official overseeing the decision yesterday gave a more specific timeline, saying that the idyllic destination may need to stay closed for one to three years to recover from the environmental damage caused by tourism.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP) originally ordered the closure of the bay from June 1 to Sept. 30, but then an additional month was added, before last week’s decision was finally made to close it indefinitely.
But it turns out even that four-month period won’t be long enough to recover the damage from 30 years of tourism. Whether or not the area will need to remain closed all three years, however, will depend on the progress of the recovery, said DNP Deputy Director-General Jongkhlai Worapongsathorn.
He said that the ecosystem around Maya Bay is in “critical” condition, as over 50 percent of the coral reefs have been destroyed. Rushing the opening of the bay would cause further damage to the newly planted coral reefs that have only begun to grow, according to Thai News Bureau.
Of course, the decision to close Maya Bay indefinitely received a negative reaction from locals who make their livings from the 4,000 tourists who visited the area daily.
Amarit Siripornjutakul, a tour operator representative and former president of the Krabi Tourism and Hotel Association, said that the indefinite closure will affect tourists who have already booked their trips to visit the bay at the end of this year.
With locals set to lose significant income, he proposed that Maya Bay should reopen for five months for the upcoming high season before then closing for recovery.
Songtham Suksawang, director of the National Park Office, said this has been Maya Bay’s first break from tourism in decades, and that rapid growth in its popularity has caused severe damage to its ecosystem.
The major causes blamed for the deaths of the coral reefs are chemicals in sunscreen. Another factor is the anchors and propellers from the boats that take tourists to the bay.