The first six months of 2017 saw a 77 percent travel increase to the island of Phu Quoc: tourism is booming there. International and domestic travellers have been drawn to the island for its sandy beaches, visa exemption programme and surprisingly affordable travel deals.
By 2020, real estate company Jones Lang Lasalle estimates that 20 million international arrivals will land in Vietnam; the Vietnamese government is hoping that many of these will choose Phu Quoc as one of their stops, expanding from the traditional Hanoi-Hoi An-Saigon route.
Video source: Hi Hai
The Department of Tourism has earmarked Phu Quoc as a prime destination, aided by an influx of luxury resorts dotting the beaches and, most recently, gambling. One of the island’s first casinos, the aptly named Casino on Phu Quoc, is set to open in the spring of 2018.
For an island with a population of just over 100,000, millions of visitors would understandably stretch infrastructure to breaking point.
As pollution continues to rise, this is exactly what we’re seeing.
The Specious Beaches
The Kien Giang Environmental Protection Office reported that some 300 tonnes of waste is discharged per day into the oceans surrounding Phu Quoc, coming from tourism services and the fishing industry. And the amount increases year-on-year.
Solid rubbish is one thing: though it’s more visible, it’s often easier to compile and clear, unless it gets swept into the sea. Wastewater is different. At the moment, there’s only one waste treatment plant on the island, able to treat 200 tonnes of sewage per day. With the increase of resorts and hotels, this isn’t powerful enough. According to VietnamNet, another plant will be built in An Thoi Town, though it can’t come fast enough.
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The detrimental side effects of Phu Quoc’s tourism surge might actually lead to environmental degradation—and the environment is one of the main reasons travellers choose the island. Case in point: the coral reefs.
In 2014 Dantri International estimated that 96 percent of Vietnam’s reefs have been damaged by human activity, and 75 percent face extinction. Activities like fishing with upgraded nets have been shown to cause significant damage. Further, Vietnam’s Red Book of Endangered Species now lists over 70 species of marine life that are suspected of being adversely affected by increased pollution.
The Kien Giang Government has proposed to fix the problem but it can’t come fast enough. Alongside plans to create a second water treatment plant are suggestions to improve waste treatment technology that promote recycling rather than dumping—it’s estimated that 80 percent of household waste is simply discarded rather than recycled or eliminated with environmentally sustainable methods.
More hope has been given by Vietnam’s participation of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, signed in 2015. Signed with other countries such as Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, the document is both nebulous and soft; from its chief document, no actual guidelines or missions are mandated.
Image source: dulichbaitho.com
Seven more luxury resorts are on the roster in the next three years, among them Regent Phu Quoc, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve and Eastin Resort Phu Quoc.