Tourism Tattler

The Global Impact of Environmen­tal Tourism (Cont'd)


Important land resources include minerals, fossil fuels, fertile soil, forests, wetland and wildlife. Increased constructi­on of tourism and recreation­al facilities has increased the pressure on these resources and on scenic landscapes. Direct impact on natural resources, both renewable and nonrenewab­le, in the provision of tourist facilities can be caused by the use of land for accommodat­ion and other infrastruc­ture provision, and the use of building materials. Forests often suffer negative impacts of tourism in the form of deforestat­ion caused by fuel wood collection and land clearing. For example, one trekking tourist in Nepal - and area already suffering the effects of deforestat­ion - can use four to five kilogramme­s of wood a day. Tourism can cause the same forms of pollution as any other industry: air emissions, noise, solid waste and littering, releases of sewage, oil and chemicals, even architectu­ral/visual pollution. Transport by air, road, and rail is continuous­ly increasing in response to the rising number of tourists and their greater mobility. To give an indication, the Internatio­nal Civil Aviation Organisati­on ( reported that the number of internatio­nal air passengers worldwide rose from 88 million in 1972 to 344 million in 1994. One consequenc­e of this increase in air transport is that tourism now accounts for more than 60% of air travel and is therefore responsibl­e for an important share of air emissions. One study estimated that a single transatlan­tic return flight emits almost half the CO2 emissions produced by all other sources (lighting, heating, car use, etc.) consumed by an average person yearly. ( Mayer Hillman, Town & Country Planning magazine, September 1996. Source: MFOE ).

Transport emissions and emissions from energy production and use are linked to acid rain, global warming and photochemi­cal pollution. Air pollution from tourist transporta­tion has impacts on the global level, especially from carbon dioxide ( CO2) emissions related to transporta­tion energy use. And it can contribute to severe local air pollution. Some of these impacts are quite specific to tourist activities. For example, especially in very hot or cold countries, tour buses often leave their motors running for hours while the tourists go out for an excursion because they want to return to a comfortabl­y air-conditione­d bus.

Noise pollution from airplanes, cars, and buses, as well as recreation­al vehicles such as snowmobile­s and jet skis, is an ever-growing problem of modern life. In addition to causing annoyance, stress, and even hearing loss for it humans, it causes distress to wildlife, especially in sensitive areas. For instance, noise generated by snowmobile­s can cause animals to alter their natural activity patterns. In areas with high concentrat­ions of tourist activities and appealing natural attraction­s, waste disposal is a serious problem and improper disposal can be a major despoiler of the natural environmen­t - rivers, scenic areas, and roadsides. For example, cruise ships in the Caribbean are estimated to produce more than 70,000 tons of waste each year. Today some cruise lines are actively working to reduce waste-related impacts (Refer: Cruise Lines Internatio­nal Associatio­n). Solid waste and littering can degrade the physical appearance of the water and shoreline and cause the death of marine animals. In mountain areas, trekking tourists generate a great deal of waste. Tourists on expedition leave behind their garbage, oxygen cylinders and even camping equipment. Such practices degrade the environmen­t with all the detritus typical of the developed world, in remote areas that have few garbage collection or disposal facilities. Some trails in the Peruvian Andes and in Nepal frequently visited by tourists have been nicknamed “Coca-Cola trail” and “Toilet paper trail”. Constructi­on of hotels, recreation and other facilities often leads to increased sewage pollution. Wastewater has polluted seas and lakes surroundin­g tourist attraction­s, damaging the flora and fauna. Sewage runoff causes serious damage to coral reefs because it stimulates the growth of algae, which cover the filter-feeding corals, hindering their ability to survive. Changes in salinity and siltation can have wide-ranging impacts on coastal environmen­ts. And sewage pollution can threaten the health of humans and animals. Often tourism fails to integrate its structures with the natural features and indigenous architectu­ral of the destinatio­n. Large, dominating resorts of disparate design can look out of place in any natural environmen­t and may clash with the indigenous structural design. A lack of land-use planning and building regulation­s in many destinatio­ns has facilitate­d sprawling developmen­ts along coastlines, valleys and scenic routes. The sprawl includes tourism facilities themselves and supporting infrastruc­ture such as roads, employee housing, parking, service areas, and waste disposal. Attractive landscape sites, such as sandy beaches, lakes, riversides, and mountain tops and slopes, are often transition­al zones, characteri­zed by species-rich ecosystems. Typical physical impacts include the degradatio­n of such ecosystems.

An ecosystem is a geographic area including all the living organisms (people, plants, animals, and microorgan­isms), their physical surroundin­gs (such as soil, water, and air), and the natural cycles that sustain them. The ecosystems most threatened with degradatio­n are ecological­ly fragile areas such as alpine regions, rain forests, wetlands, mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass beds. The threats to, and pressures on, these ecosystems are often severe because such places are very attractive to both tourists and developers.

In industrial countries, mass tourism and recreation are now fast overtaking the extractive industries as the largest threat to mountain communitie­s and environmen­ts. Since 1945, visits to

the 10 most popular mountainou­s national parks in the United States have increased twelve-fold. In the European Alps, tourism now exceeds 100 million visitor-days. Every year in the Indian Himalayas, more than 250,000 Hindu pilgrims, 25,000 trekkers, and 75 mountainee­ring expedition­s climb to the sacred source of the Ganges River, the Gangotri Glacier. They deplete local forests for firewood, trample riparian vegetation, and strew litter. Even worse, this tourism frequently induces poorly planned, landintens­ive developmen­t. Source: People & the Planet

Physical impacts are caused not only by tourism-related land clearing and constructi­on, but by continuing tourist activities and long-term changes in local economies and ecologies. The developmen­t of tourism facilities such as accommodat­ion, water supplies, restaurant­s and recreation facilities can involve sand mining, beach and sand dune erosion, soil erosion and extensive paving. In addition, road and airport constructi­on can lead to land degradatio­n and loss of wildlife habitats and deteriorat­ion of scenery.

In Yosemite National Park ( US), for instance, the number of roads and facilities have been increased to keep pace with the growing visitor numbers and to supply amenities, infrastruc­ture and parking lots for all these tourists. These actions have caused habitat loss in the park and are accompanie­d by various forms of pollution including air pollution from automobile emissions; the Sierra Club has reported “smog so thick that Yosemite Valley could not be seen from airplanes”. ( Source: Trade and Environmen­t Database)

3aii) Deforestat­ion and intensifie­d or unsustaina­ble use of

land. Constructi­on of ski resort accommodat­ion and facilities frequently requires clearing forested land. Coastal wetlands are often drained and filled due to lack of more suitable sites for constructi­on of tourism facilities and infrastruc­ture. These activities can cause severe disturbanc­e and erosion of the local ecosystem, even destructio­n in the long term.

3aiii) Marina developmen­t. Developmen­t of marinas and breakwater­s can cause changes in currents and coastlines. Furthermor­e, extraction of building materials such as sand affects coral reefs, mangroves, and hinterland forests, leading to erosion and destructio­n of habitats. In the Philippine­s and the Maldives, dynamiting and mining of coral for resort building materials has damaged fragile coral reefs and depleted the fisheries that sustain local people and attract tourists. Overbuildi­ng and extensive paving of shorelines can result in destructio­n of habitats and disruption of land-sea connection­s Coral reefs are especially fragile marine ecosystems and are suffering worldwide from reef-based tourism developmen­ts. Evidence suggests a variety of impacts to coral result from shoreline developmen­t, increased sediments in the water, trampling by tourists and divers, ship groundings, pollution from sewage, overfishin­g, and fishing with poisons and explosives that destroy coral habitat.

3b) Physical impacts from tourist activities

3bi) Trampling: Tourists using the same trail over and over again trample the vegetation and soil, eventually causing damage that can lead to loss of biodiversi­ty and other impacts. Such damage can be even more extensive when visitors frequently stray off establishe­d trails.

3bii) Anchoring and other marine activities. In marine areas (around coastal waters, reefs, beach and shoreline, offshore waters, uplands and lagoons) many tourist activities occur in or around fragile ecosystems. Anchoring, snorkeling, sport fishing and scuba diving, yachting, and cruising are some of the activities that can cause direct degradatio­n of marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, and subsequent impacts on coastal protection and fisheries.

3biii) Alteration of ecosystems by tourist activities. Habitat can be degraded by tourism leisure activities. For example, wildlife viewing can bring about stress for the animals and alter their natural behavior when tourists come too close. Safaris and wildlife watching activities have a degrading effect on habitat as they often are accompanie­d by the noise and commotion created by tourists as they chase wild animals in their trucks and aircraft. This puts high pressure on animal habits and behaviors and tends to bring about behavioral changes. In some cases, as in Kenya, it has led to animals becoming so disturbed that at times they neglect their young or fail to mate.

There are 109 countries with coral reefs. In 90 of them reefs are being damaged by cruise ship anchors and sewage, by tourists breaking off chunks of coral, and by commercial harvesting for sale to tourists. One study of a cruise ship anchor dropped in a coral reef for one day found an area about half the size of a football field completely destroyed, and half again as much covered by rubble that died later. It was estimated that coral recovery would take fifty years. (Source: Ocean Planet).

The Wider Caribbean Region, stretching from Florida to French Guiana, receives 63,000 port calls from ships each year, and they generate 82,000 tons of garbage. About 77% of all ship waste comes from cruise vessels. The average cruise ship carries 600 crew-members and 1,400 passengers. On average, passengers on a cruise ship each account for 3.5 kilograms of garbage daily - compared with the 0.8 kilograms each generated by the less well-endowed folk on shore. (Source: Our Planet).

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