Sun and Beach Forever
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.
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