By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
Tourists will be encouraged to visit national parks on week days and take their garbage with them when they leave
OFFICIALS plan to tackle the excessive amount of litter at national parks by implementing garbage disposal measures and limiting the number of tourists during holiday periods.
Witthaya Navapramod, director of the National Parks Office, said the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department acknowledges the garbage problem in national parks and has come up with projects to reduce and recycle garbage at sites where there are problems.
The Department of Health had earlier reported an overwhelming amount of garbage at national parks and other tourist destinations. Some top attractions, such as Doi Inthanon National Park, accumulated many tonnes of garbage during the New Year holiday last year.
“National parks around the country have 59 incinerators that can burn up to 800 kilograms of garbage per day. However, this method cannot deal with all the garbage and it also causes pollution of its own,” Witthaya said.
So, projects have been introduced to reduce the waste left or created by visitors.
“One of our projects is the ‘Garbage Return Home’ project, which encourages tourists to take their garbage with them when they return home and reduce our burden to deal with garbage in national parks,” he said.
The project was very successful after being introduced last year, he said. About 160 tonnes of garbage was collected by 93,000 tourists from over 100 national parks that participated in the programme.
“A survey of the participants’ satisfaction with the project revealed that 62 per cent of them were very satisfied. This indicates that the majority of tourists who travel to national parks love nature and are ready to help us tackle the garbage problem,” he said.
Nat Khongkesorn, head of the Similan Islands Marine National Park, said the national park implemented a garbage-free policy two years ago to encourage tourists to take their garbage back with them and plastic food containers were banned in the park.
“We are closely monitoring guided tours to the islands. Last week, we hosted a seminar for tour operators to Similan in order to instruct them about the rules of the national park, security and also the management of waste generated by tourists,” Nat said.
He said the Similan Islands park has a points system for all tour operators. If they violate the rules, such as littering or feeding the fish, marks are deducted and they will be prevented from entering the park if their score falls below 60 per cent.
To address the garbage and water pollution problem on Ko Tachai, the park closed food stalls on the island and banned tourists from bringing in food in order to allow the island’s ecosystem to recover.
Tachai Island had previously suffered from an excessive amount of garbage from hordes of tourists who severely damaged the island’s fragile ecosystem.
“Not only have we enforced strict regulations on tourism, we are also planning to limit the number of tourists according to the carrying capacity of each island. But we have to wait for the official calculation from the department,” he said.
Witthaya also noted that the large number of tourists during high season was a major factor that exacerbated the garbage problem.
“We are trying to limit the number of tourists in national parks during holiday periods by encouraging them to travel during weekdays or to go to less crowded tourist destinations nearby,” he said.
To that end, the department has come out with a half-price discount promotion for tourists who travel to every national park on weekdays. Information about nearby tourist sites is also provided to tourists in order to even out the average number of tourists that visit popular places and less crowded places.
“The problem is many people only know a few famous tourist destinations, so these spots are always crowded on long weekends. Therefore, if we inform people that there are a lot interesting attractions nearby, they can go to those places instead and it will reduce the burden of well-known parks to deal with garbage,” he said.