A little good news in the mountain of misery

So much destruction, so many lives lost, and if clean water and effective sanitation are not available quickly, the disease toll may eventually top the wave toll. In all this misery, perhaps there is a small bit of good: The Bangkok Post reported today that “Tourist area land misuse ‘can now end’; Illegal resorts swept away won’t be rebuilt” The full story below:

Tourist area land misuse ‘can now end’:Illegal resorts swept away won’t be rebuilt


The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is now determined to restore order to tourist areas in the South, pledging that any resorts located on forest and protected land will not be rebuilt.

Many resorts obliterated by the powerful tidal waves had encroached upon protected areas in national parks, top environmental officials said.

”Our work could be made easier. Why not turn the crisis into an opportunity,” said Natural Resources and Environmental Minister Suwit Khunkitti after a two-day visit of the devastation left by the tsunamis that hit the southern resort islands.

Mr Suwit said the next move by his ministry after the rescue and clean-up operation of the beaches would be to ensure land use was brought in line to end long-running conflicts between national park officials and certain investors who have encroached on protected forest areas to expand their resorts.

Former director for national park management Thani Viriyarattanaporn, who has many years of experience in resolving forest encroachment in marine national parks, said it may take time to prove who owns the land if people held land deeds, but those without them could be dealt with more easily after the catastrophe.

The official said many businessmen have operated resorts without land ownership deeds and since the construction of them was complete, it was very difficult to make them leave.

Mr Thani, recently appointed to work in the forestry section under the National Park, Wildlife and Plants Conservation Department, said his past experience involved many cases of forest encroachments, including in Hat Chao Mai Marine National Park in Trang, and Phi Phi Island Marine National Park in Krabi. Many cases were taken to court, but this was a lengthy, time-consuming process, he said.

However, the tsunami trail of destruction had left many bungalows and resorts on Phi Phi destroyed, leaving only scattered debris across the area, according to the latest helicopter inspection by the department chief Suvat Singhapant.

In Khao Lak Marine National Park in Phang-Nga province, numerous resorts have been wiped off the map by the series of deadly waves.

There has been concern over the years that many establishment have been located in protected forests.

Mr Suvat said senior officials had agreed to come up with an action plan to ensure that any future resorts that were built complied with land use regulations.

”Sirinat Marine National Park in Phuket province would be an example,” he said. Now the tidal waves have badly damaged many seaside resorts, officials will no longer allow new resorts to be established near the coastline again, he said.

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