A temple which sits in the sea SONTHANAPORN INCHAN

Chachoengsao _ Monks in Wat Hong Thong in Bang Pakong are close to abandoning their temple to the Gulf of Thailand after sea encroachment swallowed more than 1,500 rai of land in the coastal district over the last 30 years.

Efforts to protect land from the sea by planting mangroves and creating a breakwater have failed, said 81-year-old abbot Phrakru Prichaprapakorn.
This bright white seaside temple is in tambon Song Khlong, one of several areas in the district that have been hit by severe coastal erosion.

More than half the temple's 21 rai of land, donated by villagers, has been lost to the sea over the last 30 years.

The main chapel, sermon hall, and monks' shelters all now stand in the sea. This unusual sight is attracting tourists, but residents are distressed to lose so much land, the monk said.

He said environmental changes and seaside development in nearby costal provinces caused the problem.

More factories, boat piers and breakwaters had been built in nearby Chon Buri and Samut Sakhon provinces, which are also grappling with coastal erosion problems.

Development in those provinces has disturbed sea currents and generated stronger waves in Chachoengsao.

Before 1977, according to Phrakru Prichaprapakorn, sea currents normally brought sediment to the coast at Bang Pakong, a key factor for land formation here. But every year, less and less sediment is swept ashore.

Instead, the waves have become stronger, causing rapid coastal erosion. At least 1,500 rai of land has been lost to the sea and coastal land has already receded up to 500 metres from the original shoreline, said Tawisak Suksri, Song Khlong tambon administration organisation assistant chief. Villagers are upset by the erosion as the land has become useless.

Residents have tried to grow coastal trees and build mangroves to stall the erosion. But the waves are so strong that the plants just get washed away, he said.

Many land plots were eaten up by the sea and are now just small, stranded islands, Mr Tawisak said.

Bang Pakong officials decided to make the best of a bad situation by turning Wat Hong Thong into a tourist attraction while they search for new ways to ward off coastal erosion.
Visitors to the temple are amazed to see its chapel standing in the water, as they gaze out across the Gulf of Thailand to the newly created little islands, Mr Tawisak said.

Bangkok Post