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Chusak is a tour operator in Phuket in Thailand. But with decades of foul smelling untreated black water let into the Bang Tao and Surin beaches, tourism service providers like Chusak may have to shut shop as tourists will stop travelling to these destinations with foul smelling, black water in the beaches. Coastal tourism, that the ASEAN region is popular for, is facing a lot of risk because of pollution caused by waste water discharge by factories, hotels and large establishments. Year after year there have been conversations on the waste water discharged into the ocean and large water bodies by various domestic and commercial industries in the international sustainability forums. Conversations have resulted in little or no action.
Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destination and industrial hub in Southeast Asia. The country of over 68 million people, covers a land area of 513,115 square kilometers – with a mix of mountains, forests and coastal areas.
There are a total of 25 river basins and 59 rivers and reservoirs in Thailand. In 2020, only 9 rivers of the 59 rivers and reservoirs met the surface water quality standard by Water Quality Index, according to a report by Pollution Control Department in 2020. The main sources were quoted to be pollution from the industrial and domestic sectors.
About 600,000 million cubic meter of rainwater, which is close to 75 percent of total rainfall received, is lost through evaporation, evapotranspiration and infiltration every year. It is the remaining 25 percent or 200,000 million cubic meter constitutes the runoff that flows in rivers and streams.
The water demand in Thailand is around 70,000 million cubic meter per year. Of the 200,000 million cubic meter surface water, only about 40% of it is fit for consumption and domestic usage. Although the demand for surface water seems to be met every year, more water can be saved every year with controls over grey water or waste water discharge.
In foreseeable future, with Thailand being a growing industrial and tourism hub may end up with a water crisis if not properly mitigated. Industries and Tourism are important and priority sectors for wastewater management.
Untreated domestic sewage, industrial wastewater and solid hazardous wastes are discharged in in surface water bodies. It is reported that one third of Thailand’s surface water is unusable. The quality of surface water varies across the four regions of the country, but tests show that surface water in the Northern Central and Southern regions are the poorest quality. The largest sources of groundwater are located in the middle and lower plains around Bangkok.
The challenge lies on the fact that there is no clear policy on extracting groundwater beyond sustainable yield levels, which means that there is an over-exploitation of groundwater extraction rates. The Bangkok Municipal Association has imposed a fine of 4 baht per cubic meter of any waste water released by industrial and hotel establishments.
One of the major sources of wastewater is from the Domestic/Commercial Wastewater – 9.6 million cubic meter of wastewater is generated annually from this segment. Of this, the Hotel segment contributes to one fourth of the Domestic/Commercial wastewater. Major sources of effluent produced from many hotels are from kitchen, laundry and guest floor and outdoors.
The total revenue from Thai hotel industry accounted for US$5400 in 2019 and tourism industry accounted for 22% of GDP. With increasing push from government, it is becoming important for hotel industry to align with sustainable and ecological practices of conserving and using renewable sources. Despite government mandate against waste water discharge from hotels, fairly large number of them have been flouting the rules.
Thai Hotels Association has been promoting eco-tourism as a cost-effective way of protecting the country’s most valuable asset – its natural environment – while also investing in the tourism industry’s future. Thai hotels are gradually adopting technologies such as the Sewage or Effluent Treatment Plant and Reverse Osmosis technologies. Only a few Thai hotels are reusing treated grey water from baths, swimming pools and sinks to irrigate agricultural fields. Eco-friendly hotels can adopt new technologies such as leak detection and control of water loss, low flow fittings, infrared taps and low-flush toilets to ensure controlled usage water at the least.
Large hotels chains such as Laguna Phuket, Centara Hotels & Resorts and Dusit International have managed to receive ecofriendly accreditation to be relevant in the international sustainable business forums. Yet there is more to be done and there is a growing need for effective and affordable waste water management system for sustainable and conscious tourism businesses in Thailand.
This document is part of the whitepaper prepared by ASEAN Business Partners. We are a market entry and specialist firm for the ASEAN region. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to know more about this whitepaper and ABP’s market research & entry services.
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