The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep) has declared Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan districts in Surat Thani province part of an environmentally-protected zone after nine years of efforts to regulate commercial development on the islands.
The Onep declaration, which came into force on May 30, means all commercial activities on Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and 39 other islands in those districts will be restricted to preserve the environment, said Onep deputy secretary-general Noppadol Thiyajai.
He said the tourism industry has encroached on the islands’ watersheds, mangrove forests, cliffs and shores. The islands’ city planning and building control laws provide insufficient legal measures to protect the environment and natural resources, he warned.
“We hope the declaration will at least help maintain the environment on the islands. We understand the measure may not result in significant environmental improvements, but it is better than having nothing,” Mr Noppadol said.
Onep’s deputy chief said new rules under the declaration will not have retroactive effects on past development but new construction projects will require the approval of a panel headed by the provincial governor.
Under the declaration, development of petroleum drilling and mining operations, land reclamation, commercial airports and golf courses are banned.
Other new establishments such as hotels and residential projects will be required to allocate 50% of their total land use to green areas. These projects will also need to install grease traps in their waste water systems.
Home Thailand: Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan protected enviro zone