Phuket’s forests under threat

Deforestation and encroachment is increasing at an alarming rate on the resort island of Phuket, prompting the local government to set up a task force to monitor the island’s national forests. Phuket has 16 national forest preserves that cover nearly 80 per cent of the island.

The 5,000-rai Bang Khanun National Park has been the target of illegal loggers and farmers lately. They have destroyed around 2,800 rai of the forest area. Phuket governor Niran Kalayanamitr is taking the threat seriously, signing an agreement with all local administration bodies to make a concerted effort to fight encroachment and protect the island’s natural resources.

Niran commented that over the past ten years, encroachment on national forest land has been slowly but steadily increasing, but the local government has done nothing serious to tackle the problem. The governor admits that legal measures alone aren’t enough to fix the situation. Property prices on Phuket have risen so high in recent years that residents can’t afford to live there, so they are squatting on government land.

Poppol Sirilaksanapong, an official of the Phuket natural resources and environment office, says that Phuket is a hot location for small-scale encroachers who come to the island for work and carve out a place to live among the forests. Four task force units have been established to monitor the islands 16 national forests and rehabilitate damaged areas.

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