Thailand closes the Maya Bay beach until 2021

Thai authorities have banned a visit to the beach of Maya Bay until at least 2021 to repair it after years of damage.

The pristine beach on the southern island of Koh Phi Phi was closed for the first time in June after it was discovered that most of its coral reefs were damaged by ship anchors.

The beach gained fame for the 2000 film "The Beach".

The government initially planned to close the beach for four months but later decided to keep it closed for a longer period of time without a specific time frame.

"Reform efforts take time, and it is very difficult, especially with most of the coral reefs dying," said Toon Tamerungnawasawat, a senior professor of marine ecology at the University of Kayssart in Bangkok, where he oversees efforts to restore reefs to the beach .

He said more than 23,000 new coral reefs had been planted since last year's closure, but the number of white ones would not be known from the strong summer sun.

Thailand's total damage to coral reefs has reached a "critical" level with a remarkable increase over the past decade, Ton said, adding that the country's booming tourism industry is to blame.

About 38.2 million tourists visited Thailand in 2018, up from 34 million a year earlier.

At Maya Bay alone, there are about 4,000 tourists a day, larger than the actual capacity of the beach. After reopening, only about 2,000 people are expected to visit it daily.

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