Living in the Lions Village
Many times you´ve seen me mention this village by it´s name, The Lions Village (Baan Lion in Thai). This is the village where Naucrates Conservation operations on the Koh Phra Thong island are currently situated and where all of us volunteers and project staff members are accommodated. Think of it as a basecamp for us.
The village itself consists of a big school building and about 120 houses (one house has a bathroom and 3 bedrooms in two levels). Permanent population of the village is currently about 28 people. Needless to say that majority of the houses are empty and unused. Most of them are not even connected to the village water- and powernetworks. The village used be situated closer to the ocean before the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, only to be wiped out of existence by it. After the tsunami the village was rebuilt mainly with the tsunami-relief funds from the Lions Club International. The school building here is funded by a charity organization from Switzerland.
While providing aide to rebuild the village, the charities didn´t check how many people would actually be living in the houses afterwards. And as it happens, most of the villagers were naturally forced to move to the mainland Thailand after the tsunami, and had by then decided to stay there and not return to their village of origin. Only now they had a house donated by the Lions Club in their name as well, though there is a clause in the contract which prevents the owners of selling or renting the property out. The school building suitable for over 100 children was in use in the beginning, but operations were closed later on. Thai government provides one teacher per 12 children, and some time after the opening of the school, the head count eventually dropped under this, so the teacher had to leave. Currently the 6 village children attend school daily in the neighbouring village of Tha Payoi. The distance is 10km one way.
There is a small chance that this village will be abandoned all together, creating an ghost village on the island. There has been some talks of a permanent landline electricity network being built on the island, and if this happens it will boost the quality of live and lower the cost of living in the Lions Village. On the other hand with the introduction of 24/7 electricity the island becomes an very attractive site for real estate developers working in the mass-tourism industry. When the hotels and guests are here, then comes the restaurants and other services and activities. Road network will be updated and new roads built. All this needs space, and that space is taken from the nature. The unique savannah ecosystem will suffer, the beaches will get overcrowded and the turtles nesting behaviour is more likely to change to the worse. Basically the island with the local culture will suffer greatly. The destruction of the island and change of culture can be prevented with well managed development with sustainable principles, but this would require government involvement and supervision. All this is down to the issue with electricity, and it´s a good thing for the people here, and possible bad thing for the island. Like all things in life, no choice is easy.