Saithip Noochsamnieng arrived on Koh Samui in 2001 from Bangkok determined to make the island her home. She was the co-founder of Samui’s only dedicated TV Channel and through her work soon began to realise the need to preserve the island’s natural resources. “Although my main aim was to promote Koh Samui to visitors,” she explain, “it struck me that there was little point in the island looking for economic prosperity if its people didn’t have enough clean air to breath or clean water to drink.”
This realisation began to pull Saithip away from commercial interests and as Samui Channel grew she put in a creative team to handle daily operations and sat down to write a proposal for an island-wide environmental programme that has since been ratified by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
The Green Island Foundation gives and receives support from eco-events like the annual Samui Mala Festival. It also manages initiatives such as the publication of a Green Guide and co-operates in programmes like the Low Carbon Schools Project, funded by the Thai Hotels Association. Saithip sits on every committee connected with the foundation’s various projects and events. She continually campaigns for both businesses and government bodies to become more environmentally responsible, particularly when it comes to future development. “Being green means finding harmony between things that have been constructed and the natural environment that surrounds them.” she says. “Structures should combine beauty with systems that protect nature and also have a full sense of responsibility toward society.”
Of course, it’s not always easy to force people operating hotels, restaurants or other businesses to obey regulations or follow green guidelines to protect the environment. It can be even more difficult to create an awareness of the importance of a process that has to take place over a significant period time. Saithip applies the pressure needed to bring about such co-operation, introducing ideas and hosting workshops to encourage greater participation across the board. “I very much hope the island will grow sustainably and that people will realise it is also important to support strong, fundamental growth,” she added. “That our nature.”
Introducing incentives to encourage business owners to cooperate is one idea Saithip has tried to initiate. Those who conduct their business without causing any harm to the environment are rewarded with promotion in the media and through the TAT. She has also been instrumental in providing information for tourists, both through her TV Channel and through publications and websites that guide visitors towards a more eco-friendly, responsible approach to their holiday. “Samui is experiencing problems connected with the preservation of its customs, culture, traditions and way of life.” she explained. “Fishermen are abandoning their traditional jobs to hire themselves out as construction workers, and farmers are turning into real estate brokers.
These changes make it an urgent priority to promote ways for tourism to play a part in maintaining and ensuring the strength and survival of the local culture, customs, and traditional jobs for Samuis inhabitants.”
Such a commitment to preserving not only the natural, but also the social environment on Koh Samui have made Saithip a well respected figure, not only on the island but also in the capital. Many of her ideas and suggestions are slowly being realised through initiatives and education programmes that may one day may even save Koh Samui from itself.