Sun and Beach Fo­re­ver

Excelencias Turísticas del caribe y las Américas - - Reportaje / Interview -

CLI­MA­TE CHAN­GE IS THREATENIN­G TO WIPE OUT PART OF THE CA­RIB­BEAN COASTLINE. AN IN­TEN­SE WORK IS UN­DER­WAY IN CU­BA

AI­MED AT CUTTING DOWN ON ITS EF­FECTS AND GET­TING USED TO IT

For Sig­mund Freud, drea­ming of the sea is the way peo­ple re­la­te to the wa­ter ele­ment du­ring the­se evo­ca­tions. Then, why don't we just ha­ve fun and ma­ke our dreams come true when we're clo­se to it?

Cu­ba is ba­si­cally a sun-and-beach des­ti­na­tion. Roughly 80 per­cent of its gues­trooms are nestled in coas­tal tra­vel des­ti­na­tions, mostly in four- and fi­ve-star ho­tels.

Va­ra­de­ro, in Ma­tan­zas, ranks as the num­ber one of tho­se sandy des­ti­na­tions, fo­llo­wed by Jar­di­nes del Rey on the Sabana-Ca­ma­güey ar­chi­pe­la­go, Guar­da­la­va­ca in Hol­guín, the An­cón Pe­nin­su­la in Tri­ni­dad —San­cti Spí­ri­tus—, Ca­yo Lar­go de Sur on the Is­le of Youth, and ot­her re­gions that keep ma­king their own head­way and are re­ci­pients of re­kind­ling in­vest­ments.

The ad­van­ce of in­ter­na­tio­nal tou­rism on the Cuban ar­chi­pe­la­go burst out in the la­te 1980s, pre­ci­sely fo­cu­sed on the developmen­t of the sun-and-beach des­ti­na­tions in all-in­clu­si­ve re­sorts. That start pic­ked up steam in the early 1990s as the country be­gun to rely on eco­no­mic re­sour­ces of its own coupled with funds fun­ne­led in by fo­reign ca­pi­tal. The stra­tegy was prom­pted by the ur­gency of re­eling in new re­ve­nues, following the im­plo­sion of the So­viet Union and the So­cia­list bloc that even­tually brought the is­land na­tion to a pro­found eco­no­mic cri­sis.

Sin­ce then, the developmen­t of the sun-and­beach des­ti­na­tion has been qui­te vi­si­ble. From

Las pla­yas, don­de se ubi­ca al­re­de­dor del 80 % de la in­fra­es­truc­tu­ra tu­rís­ti­ca na­cio­nal, y que hoy apor­tan unos 3 000 mi­llo­nes de dó­la­res, tam­bién se­rán blan­co di­rec­to. Cu­ba cuen­ta con más de 400 bal­nea­rios ma­ri­nos; de las pla­yas are­no­sas eva­lua­das, el 82 % tie­ne in­di­cios de ero­sión.

Los man­gla­res y las cres­tas de arre­ci­fe, otros dos ele­men­tos de pro­tec­ción na­tu­ral de las cos­tas, tam­bién es­tán afec­ta­dos. Se es­ti­ma que la lí­nea de cos­ta es­tá te­nien­do un rit­mo de re­tro­ce­so pro­me­dio de al­re­de­dor de 1,2 m por año —pue­de ser su­pe­rior en al­gu­nas áreas—, y que diez pla­yas are­no­sas han des­apa­re­ci­do pro­duc­to de la ac­ción com­bi­na­da del hom­bre y el efec­to des­truc­ti­vo del olea­je por huracanes y otros even­tos.

TA­REA DE VI­DA

Los desafíos son enor­mes. Cu­ba, sin em­bar­go, no se ha cru­za­do de bra­zos. Es el pri­mer país en dis­po­ner de una es­tra­te­gia cien­tí­fi­ca e ins­ti­tu­cio­nal pa­ra mi­ti­gar los efec­tos del cam­bio cli­má­ti­co y adap­tar­nos a él, que abar­ca has­ta el año 2100.

El Plan de Es­ta­do pa­ra el En­fren­ta­mien­to al Cam­bio Cli­má­ti­co, co­no­ci­do co­mo Ta­rea Vi­da, fue apro­ba­do en abril de 2017. Su va­lía y tras­cen­den­cia pa­ra la Is­la, el Ca­ri­be y otras re­gio­nes vul­ne­ra­bles fue­ron re­co­no­ci­das du­ran­te la Con­fe­ren­cia de las Na­cio­nes Uni­das (ONU) so­bre el cam­bio cli­má­ti­co (COP23), ce­le­bra­da en no­viem­bre pa­sa­do en la ciu­dad ale­ma­na de Bonn.

En enero, Scien­ce, la revista de la Aso­cia­ción Ame­ri­ca­na pa­ra el Avan­ce de la Cien­cia, tam­po­co con­tu­vo elo­gios pa­ra la ini­cia­ti­va de la Ma­yor de la An­ti­llas.

David Gug­gen­heim, pre­si­den­te de la aso­cia­ción in­de­pen­dien­te Ocean Doc­tor, que agru­pa a emi­nen­cias del mun­do en cien­cias ma­ri­nas, re­sal­tó la vi­sión a lar­go pla­zo de la es­tra­te­gia gu­ber­na­men­tal. «Cu­ba es un país inusual en el sen­ti­do de que real­men­te res­pe­tan a sus cien­tí­fi­cos, y su po­lí­ti­ca ha­cia el cam­bio cli­má­ti­co es­tá im­pul­sa­da por la cien­cia», in­di­có.

Las me­di­das con­ce­bi­das por el Plan de Es­ta­do co­men­za­ron a apli­car­se en zo­nas vul­ne­ra­bles y prio­ri­za­das pa­ra el desa­rro­llo eco­nó­mi­co y so­cial. Ini­cial­men­te in­clu­yó a 73 de los 168 mu­ni­ci­pios cu­ba­nos, 63 con asen­ta­mien­tos cos­te­ros y diez no cos­te­ros.

Se­gún ha ex­pli­ca­do la Mi­nis­tra del CITMA en di­fe­ren­tes in­ter­ven­cio­nes —de las que he­mos ex­traí­do los da­tos aquí re­se­ña­dos—, la Ta­rea Vi­da cons­ti­tu­ye una pro­pues­ta in­te­gral don­de se pre­sen­tan zo­nas y lu­ga­res prio­ri­za­dos, las afec­ta­cio­nes que ten­drán por el cam­bio cli­má­ti­co, y las ac­cio­nes a aco­me­ter. ap­pro­xi­ma­tely 600,000 in­ter­na­tio­nal arri­vals in the early 1990s, so­me 4.7 mi­llion sun­bat­hers vi­si­ted the country in 2017 and as many as 5 mi­llion visitors are ex­pec­ted to come to Cu­ba this year, in­clu­ding fo­reig­ners and Cuban re­si­dents over­seas. Most of them sta­yed eit­her all the ti­me or part of the ti­me at the Cuban bea­ches.

THE SHA­PE OF WA­TER

The Sol Pal­me­ras Ho­tel ope­ned in Va­ra­de­ro on May 10, 1990, thus be­co­ming the first bu­si­ness with fo­reign in­vest­ment set up in the country af­ter the triumph of the 1959 re­vo­lu­tion. Com­man­der Fi­del Cas­tro at­ten­ded the grand ope­ning.

Be­yond the ico­nic tra­di­tio­nal bea­ches, a tou­rism peak was just about to break out in tho­se pris­ti­ne sce­ne­ries, precious and in­ti­ma­te for ba­rely a bunch of fis­her­men and coast guards, and for Er­nest He­ming­way who put them on the map by the hand of its ce­le­bra­ted no­vel “Is­lands in the Stream”.

Jar­di­nes del Rey –so­me 465 km from Pun­ta Ma­ter­ni­llo in Nue­vi­tas, Ca­ma­güey, all the way to the Hi­ca­cos Pe­nin­su­la in Va­ra­de­ro, Ma­tan­zas- we­re hoo­ked up th­rough a road of rocks built on the sea­bed from Tu­ri­gua­nó to Ca­yo Co­co, in the pro­vin­ce of Cie­go de Ávila.

Cons­truc­tion of the pe­dra­plén (rocky road) star­ted in 1987. “Th­row sto­nes and

don't look ahead” said Fi­del Cas­tro on March 13, 1987 to Eve­lio Ca­po­te, the lar­ger-than-li­fe buil­der who led the teams of wor­kers, tech­ni­cians and en­gi­neers who even­tually built the 24-km-long, two-way road on the wa­ter, a road that was stret­ched out la­ter on for do­zens of mi­les th­rough Ca­yo Co­co to reach out to neigh­bo­ring is­lets, each and every one of them tee­ming with un­tap­ped bea­ches and co­ral re­efs that har­bor a rich bio­di­ver­sity.

In 1994, the rocky roads brid­ged the gap bet­ween the main is­land and the nort­hern offs­ho­re keys for a se­cond ti­me as the Cai­ba­rién-Ca­yo San­ta María road ope­ned, a pro­ject that grab­bed the 1998-2000 Al­can­ta­ra Award for the Best En­gi­nee­ring Work in Ibe­rian-Ame­ri­ca, thanks to the ex­ce­llent exe­cu­tion and the pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment in the vi­ci­nity.

THE CHAN­GING CLI­MA­TE

Cir­ca 1996, the on­going ac­ti­ve hu­rri­ca­ne sea­son in the Atlan­tic got un­der­way, which usually stret­ches out for 25 years. A hu­rri­ca­ne li­ke Ir­ma –the migh­tiest ever to hit the re­gion­ge­ne­rally co­mes to pass every one hun­dred years. Ho­we­ver, scien­ti­fic re­ports might vary as a re­sult of cli­ma­te chan­ge, a pro­cess who­se ef­fects are im­pos­si­ble to har­ness, yet can be mi­ti­ga­ted with a view to get used to it.

Fu­tu­re fo­re­casts in­di­ca­te that the ri­sing of sea le­vel in Cu­ba could peak 27 cm by 2050 and as many as 85 cm in 2100, in kee­ping with es­ti­ma­tes ma­de for the who­le planet by the In­ter­go­vern­men­tal Pa­nel on Cli­ma­te Chan­ge (IPCC is the Spa­nish acronym). Tho­se es­ti­ma­tes em­bra­ce the 2081-2100 pe­riod –as stac­ked up against the 1986-2005 ti­me­fra­me- and point to pos­si­ble ri­sing of sea le­vel in the neigh­bor­hood of 26 and 55 cm at the very least, and 45 to 82 cm in the worst-ca­se sce­na­rio.

Ac­cor­ding to Cu­ba's Mi­nistry of Scien­ce, Tech­no­logy and the En­vi­ron­ment (CITMA is the Spa­nish acronym), this means a slow sin­king of the ground and the pie­ce­meal sa­li­ni­za­tion of the un­der­ground wa­ters as a re­sult of the ad­van­ce of the so-ca­lled sa­li­ne wed­ge.

The so­lid ground that would sink per­ma­nently by 2050 could en­gulf 2,691 squa­re ki­lo­me­ters (2.4 per­cent of the to­tal), and as many as 6,371 squa­re ki­lo­me­ters (5.8 per­cent of the to­tal) by 2100. Yet, that outlook could get grim­mer on­ce the re­search on all of the ar­chi­pe­la­go's is­lands, keys and is­lets is con­clu­ded.

Re­search stu­dies bear out that the lo­cal cli­ma­te is get­ting in­crea­singly war­mer and more ex­tre­me, that the an­nual ave­ra­ge tem­pe­ra­tu­re has rat­che­ted up 0.9 de­grees Cel­sius from the mid-1950s, that cy­clo­nic ac­ti­vity is now more in­ten­se, that rain­fall vo­lu­mes ha­ve shif­ted dra­ma­ti­cally sin­ce 1960, that drought is set­ting in and that the ave­ra­ge sea le­vel has ri­sen 6.77 cm.

Fai­lu­re to apply pro­per adap­ta­tion mea­su­res by 2050 could re­sult in the floo­ding of 14 coas­tal settle­ments, clim­bing to 20 in all by 2100. That could par­tially af­fect as many as a hun­dred ci­ties and towns across the country.

The bea­ches –ho­me to ap­pro­xi­ma­tely 80 per­cent of the tou­rism in­fras­truc­tu­re na­tion­wi­de that chip in so­me $3 bi­llion worth of re­ve­nue­will al­so be tar­ge­ted. Cu­ba boasts over 400 fo­res­ho­res and 82 per­cent of its sandy bea­ches ha­ve been hit by ero­sion.

Man­gro­ves and re­ef tips –two ele­ments that pro­vi­de coasts with na­tu­ral pro­tec­tion- ha­ve al­so been poun­ded. Es­ti­ma­tes ha­ve it that the coastline is re­trea­ting at an an­nual ave­ra­ge of 1.2 me­ters per year –it could be even wor­se in so­me areas- and that ten sandy bea­ches ha­ve va­nis­hed as a com­bi­ned re­sult of man's ac­tions and the des­truc­ti­ve af­ter­math cau­sed by hu­rri­ca­nes and ot­her weat­her-re­la­ted phe­no­me­na.

TASK “LI­FE”

Cha­llen­ges are hu­ge. Ho­we­ver, Cu­ba is not sit­ting on its hands. As a mat­ter of fact, the is­land is the first na­tion to count on a scien­ti­fic and ins­ti­tu­tio­nal stra­tegy ai­med at mi­ti­ga­ting cli­ma­te chan­ge and adap­ting to it, va­lid th­rough the year 2100.

The Sta­te Plan against Cli­ma­te Chan­ge – known as Task Li­fe- was pas­sed in April 2017. Its va­li­dity and sig­ni­fi­can­ce for the is­land na­tion, the Ca­rib­bean and ot­her vul­ne­ra­ble re­gions

El Plan dis­po­ne de cin­co ac­cio­nes es­tra­té­gi­cas y de 11 ta­reas, y se con­ci­be co­mo un pro­gra­ma de in­ver­sio­nes pro­gre­si­vas en di­fe­ren­tes pla­zos: cor­to (2020), me­diano (2030), lar­go (2050) y muy lar­go (2100).

El ver­ti­mien­to de are­na, la reha­bi­li­ta­ción de du­nas, la eli­mi­na­ción de edi­fi­ca­cio­nes so­bre du­nas, in­clu­yen­do ho­te­les, y la reha­bi­li­ta­ción de man­gla­res es­tán en­tre las me­di­das pa­ra pro­te­ger las pla­yas are­no­sas del país. Es la me­jor ma­ne­ra pa­ra de­te­ner el de­te­rio­ro de la pro­tec­ción na­tu­ral de las cos­tas.

Du­ran­te una con­fe­ren­cia ma­gis­tral en la I Con­ven­ción Cien­tí­fi­ca In­ter­na­cio­nal de la Uni­ver­si­dad Cen­tral Marta Abreu, de Vi­lla Cla­ra, ce­le­bra­da a fi­nes de oc­tu­bre pa­sa­do, Manuel Ma­rre­ro Cruz, mi­nis­tro de Tu­ris­mo, ga­ran­ti­zó «el com­pro­mi­so ab­so­lu­to del sec­tor con el cui­da­do del me­dioam­bien­te y el en­fren­ta­mien­to al cam­bio cli­má­ti­co», se­gún re­se­ña de pren­sa.

Pa­ra Ma­rre­ro esa es «la úni­ca ma­ne­ra de ase­gu­rar la per­ma­nen­cia de nues­tro tra­ba­jo (del tu­ris­mo) en el tiem­po y la con­ser­va­ción del país pa­ra las fu­tu­ras ge­ne­ra­cio­nes». we­re re­cog­ni­zed du­ring the Uni­ted Nations Con­fe­ren­ce on Cli­ma­te Chan­ge (COP23), held in No­vem­ber last year in Ger­many's Bonn.

In Ja­nuary, the Ame­ri­can As­so­cia­tion for Scien­ce Ad­van­ce ma­ga­zi­ne had words of prai­se for the initia­ti­ve im­ple­men­ted by the lar­gest Ca­rib­bean is­land.

David Gug­gen­heim, chair­man of Ocean Doc­tor, an in­de­pen­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion that gat­hers top ma­ri­ne scien­tists from around the world, ex­to­lled the long-term vi­sion of this go­vern­men­tal stra­tegy. “Cu­ba is an unu­sual country in the sen­se that it does res­pect its scien­tists, and its po­licy to battle cli­ma­te chan­ge is boos­ted by scien­ce,” he said.

Ap­pli­ca­tion of the ac­tions map­ped out in the Sta­te Plan star­ted in vul­ne­ra­ble re­gions and top-prio­rity areas for the country's eco­no­mic and so­cial developmen­t. Ini­tially, it in­clu­ded 73 of the is­land na­tion's 168 mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties, 63 of them lo­ca­ted in coas­tal areas.

As the CITMA Mi­nis­ter has ex­plai­ned in dif­fe­rent oc­ca­sions –the sour­ce for the in­for­ma­tion used in this ar­ti­cle- Task Li­fe is in­deed a com­prehen­si­ve res­pon­se that fea­tu­res a list of prio­ri­ti­zed zo­nes and lo­ca­tions, the af­fec­ta- tions brought about by cli­ma­te chan­ge and the ac­tions to tac­kle the is­sue.

The Plan com­pri­ses fi­ve stra­te­gic ac­tions and ele­ven tasks, de­sig­ned as a pro­gres­si­ve in­vest­ment pro­gram in dif­fe­rent terms: short (2020), mid (2030), long (2050) and very long (2100).

The ad­di­tion of sand, the res­to­ra­tion of the du­nes, the eli­mi­na­tion of buil­dings nestled on the du­nes –in­clu­ding ho­tels- and the reha­bi­li­ta­tion of man­gro­ves are all part of the mea­su­res ai­med at pro­tec­ting sandy bea­ches across the country. That's the best way to stop the de­te­rio­ra­tion of the coasts' na­tu­ral pro­tec­tion.

Du­ring a master lec­tu­re held in Oc­to­ber last year wit­hin the framework of the First In­ter­na­tio­nal Scien­ti­fic Convention of the “Mart­ha Abreu” Cen­tral Uni­ver­sity in Vi­lla Cla­ra, Cu­ba's Tou­rism Mi­nis­ter Manuel Ma­rre­ro Cruz un­ders­co­red “the sec­tor's staunch com­mit­ment to en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and the battle against cli­ma­te chan­ge.”

For Mr. Ma­rre­ro, this is “the only way to ma­ke su­re the per­ma­nen­ce of our job (tou­rism) in ti­me and the con­ser­va­tion of the country for ge­ne­ra­tions to come.”

El ver­ti­mien­to de are­na, la reha­bi­li­ta­ción de du­nas, la eli­mi­na­ción de edi­fi­ca­cio­nes so­bre du­nas, in­clu­yen­do ho­te­les, y la reha­bi­li­ta­ción de man­gla­res es­tán en­tre las me­di­das pa­ra pro­te­ger las pla­yas are­no­sas del país

The Sta­te Plan against Cli­ma­te Chan­ge –known as Task Li­fe- was pas­sed inApril 2017. As a mat­ter of fact, the is­land is the first na­tion to count on a scien­ti­fic and ins­ti­tu­tio­nal stra­tegy ai­med at mi­ti­ga­ting cli­ma­te chan­geand adap­ting to it

The ad­di­tion of sand, the res­to­ra­tion of the du­nes, the eli­mi­na­tion of buil­dings nestled on the du­nes –in­clu­ding ho­tels- and the reha­bi­li­ta­tion of man­gro­ves are all part of the mea­su­res ai­med at pro­tec­ting sandy bea­ches across the country

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