• Hans van Mameren

The tourist and the locust

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

Tourism belongs to the bigger industries in the world. It converts wealth from one part of the world to other parts. And for a good deal it is to the benefit of poorer or lesser developed regions. That is the positive side. However, like always there is a down side.

Boracay, Maya Bay and Sihanoukville, amongst others, are beautiful places crumbling under the pressure of tourism. Hotels and resorts are designed and built to give the guest a great feeling. But what is behind the walls? Nobody cares. But what flows from behind those walls into the sea starts to eat away the reef?

"Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans." Jacques Yves Cousteau

When too many nutrients come into the environment, especially in warm tropical waters, the balance is easily toppled. Do not think this happens only where large scale hotels and resorts are situated. Already a few small activities can have a devastating impact.

A dozen or so Homestays are built in Raja Ampat. Idyllically located above a tropical beach with beautiful sunsets and serene silence. All your worries drop off. And more.

Nature can cope with some of it and can regenerate nutrients but there is a limit to nature’s own solving capability. Then the amount of nutrients becomes a big problem. The other attack on nature comes from Liveaboards. Not all have proper greywater treatment. Compulsory for ships under IMO regulation. But how is this handled on ships not governed by IMO or Class rules? How is such waste water treatment handled and who inspects it?

Now even in Raja Ampat, till recently one of the few places where nature improved, bleaching of the reef is noticed.

High levels of nutrients are measured and remnants of septic tanks have been found in Raja Ampat. A huge area with relatively few people but still affected and the balance toppled. Water pollution is perhaps the most obvious cause of coral reef destruction. Reefs are harmed when oil, fertilizer, and human or animal waste are dumped in the area. These elements can end up changing the chemical makeup of the water, but the waste can also block life-giving sunlight to the reef. Floating trash can also cut young coral polyps off from the nutrients they need to grow into a thriving reef.It is not one course that made this shift. A drop may overflow a bucket, but can never fill it. We better start working on all issues. Waste water treatment is not a high tech thing. With simple and low costs action it can be solved. Install a proper waste water installation and make sure by regulation and enforcement that it will be maintained. We should not be distracted by "What will this cost?". The price of doing nothing is much higher. Biodiversity is under great thread. And we need the beautiful nature as in Raja Ampat and many other places. That's why we like to go there. Unwind and rediscover ourselves.

The tourist and the locust: they act the same. They come in swarms, eat the field barren and fly on to a next field. Leaving what was, devastated. And when the swarms of locust cannot find a new green field because they have eaten all, they die en-masse. Should we too?

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