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Maya Bay in Thailand, the beach made famous in the dystopian film The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio, will be closed to the public for at least three months this summer in an attempt to undo the damage done to the coral reef on the Phi Phi Islands where Maya Bay is located.

In the movie, based on the novel by Alex Garland, the beach is featured as a pristine paradise, free from human intervention. But that’s far from the case now, with as many as 5,000 people people visiting the cove every day. Tourists from the nearby resorts on Phuket and Krabi Islands flock to Maya Bay to check out the island that became well-known after the release of The Beach. 

Local authorities are halting visits to the cove from June to September, the middle of the low season for tourism in Thailand, citing damage that’s been done to the coral reefs from overtourism around the Phi Phi islands. They hope the reefs have a chance to recover during this closure.

Other Thai beaches have closed to tourists to remedy the loss of coral reefs, but this is the first time that Maya Bay will be closed to tourists. While some support the temporary closure, others are hoping for stricter enforcement or even permanently closing the beach to tourists completely. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine ecologist at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, said that he supports a more permanent option.

“Temporary closures can help to a certain extent. But an ideal solution is a permanent closure, which is not possible due to our reliance on tourism revenue,” Thamrongnawasawat told The Telegraph

Recent research has shown that 72% of the coral reefs in Thailand has been damaged from anything from polluted water from seaside hotels to dumping plastic waste into the ocean. The news of the closure comes after Thai authorities announced certain tourist beaches will no longer allow smoking to help circumvent problems with littering and water pollution.

Tourism in Thailand has skyrocketed in the past two decades and now accounts for more than 20% of Thailand’s GDP. In 1998, the country has less than 8 million visitors; that number rose to nearly 35 million in 2017.

H/T: The Telegraph

Featured image courtesy of Brian Biros.

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