Koh Chang: Ka-ching!
One by one, Thailand’s tropical islands have been overrun by the tourism industry and all but gutted by unbridled, profit-driven development. Now the nation’s impoverished government has its eye on the last large piece of unspoiled land: idyllic Koh Chang Island. This time, though, the government promises it will use proper zoning, strict regulations on construction and transportation, and an emphasis on ecotourism to preserve the island’s natural wonders while profiting off of its conversion into a playground for the rich. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions; as soon as the government announced plans to develop the island — 75 percent of which is a national park — prices soared, speculators snatched up land held by villagers for generations, and developers raced to begin building before new environmental regulations take effect. Already, a lagoon has been dredged, sewage has been dumped into the seas, a mangrove swamp has been cut down, and national parklands have been violated.