Island ecosystems along Thailand’s coast are important from an ecological and economic perspective. 936 Islands covering an area of 2,686 km² are distributed over 19 provinces at both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Coast. Managing island ecosystems is a complex issue and falls under a number of different institutions. However, the importance of the biodiversity of island ecosystems is well recognized and Thailand has an extensive network of marine protected areas on both coasts.
Many of Thailand’s large islands face ecological pressure arising from development activities. Illegal fisheries in marine protected areas add to it. The protection of marine biodiversity has to be balanced with the need for livelihoods, improved management and law enforcement.
IUCN Thailand has been involved in island ecosystems conservation since 2005, following the destructions of the Tsunami in December 2004.
Some basic facts about Koh Tao:
- A 21 km² island, located about 70 km off the coast in the Gulf of Thailand.
- One of 10 top-diving destinations of the world, as the island features an abundance of coral reefs.
- According to the 2006 statistics of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the island is visited by over 400,000 people annually.
Threats and challenges:
Water pollution: inland waterways carry large quantities of domestic waste. Solid waste disposal is a major problem on the island. The only landfill of the island is located on a hill top, from where waste related substances leach into the groundwater system. The landfill accommodates approximately 5 tons of waste daily during the 8-month high season. While the landfill cannot be relocated to a more environmentally sound location, action to mitigate its impact is a real challenge.
The cumulative impacts of the island’s poor waste management pose a threat to the local coral reefs and the whole of the island’s ecosystem.