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'Completely Destroyed' Location for 'The Beach' Movie to Stay Closed to Tourists Indefinitely

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Pollution from boats is among the reasons that Thailand's iconic Maya Bay will remain closed to tourists. Michael_Spencer / CC BY 2.0

Thailand's iconic Maya Bay, made popular by the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach, will be closed to tourists indefinitely, CNN Travel reported.

The beach had been closed temporarily since June 1 to restore the damage done by more than a million yearly visitors, but on Tuesday Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) announced the closure would continue "until natural resources return to normal."


The announcement came in the form of a letter signed by DNP director-general Thanya Nethithammakul.

"The ecosystem and the beach's physical structure have [not] yet returned to its full condition," the letter said, in Thai.

The beach, visited for its golden sands and clear blue water surrounded by the dramatic cliffs of Ko Phi Phi Leh island, shot to prominence following the release of the 2000 DiCaprio film. It drew as many as 5,000 visitors and 200 boats daily and generated 400 million baht (approximately $12.4 million) a year, The Guardian reported.

But the beach's popularity was less profitable for its coral reefs. It is estimated that pollution from litter, boats and sunscreen destroyed 80 percent of the coral around the bay.

Because Maya Bay has no hotels and forbids overnight stays, all of that damage is caused by day-trippers, often boating in from nearby Phuket, CNN reported.

"It's very difficult to remedy and rehabilitate because its beach was completely destroyed as well [as] the plants which cover it," national parks director Songtam Suksawang told The Guardian.

He further said the original four-month recovery timeline was "impossible," a belief that was shared by environmental groups when that timeline was first announced, since coral only grows by half a centimeter a year.

"More than 1,000 corals are being installed at Maya Bay. Trees are also being planted on land nearby. Experts realize that it is too fast to open Maya Bay at this stage," Worapoj Lomlim, chief of the park that includes Maya Bay, told The Thaiger.

The Maya Bay closure also extends to Lo Sama Bay in the same Hat Nopparat Thara – Moo Koh Phi Phi national park.

The pollution that accompanies tourism has been a growing problem for beaches in the region. Indonesia declared a "garbage emergency" this year after a video of a diver encountering plastic off the coast of Bali went viral. Meanwhile, the Philippines closed its famous Boracay Bay for six months in April, and President Rodrigo Duterte called the resort area a "cesspool," The Guardian reported.

Unlike Maya Bay, Boracay is on schedule to reopen in stages starting this month, CNN reported.

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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