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THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF TOURISM on the ECOLOGY of JAMAICA by Elaina Kozyr BLPR 101.51 Introduction Tourism and the environment have a very complex and interdependent relationship. Today, tourism is one of the largest industries in todays world economy and is a great source of foreign exchange for many developing countries, whose major assets are their natural resources.1 At the same time, it is the environmental quality of a place that will determine the success of the tourism industry, since it is the main attraction for tourists. There have been a lot of arguments about whether tourism is beneficial or harmful to the environment. A lot of the developing countries whose main source of foreign exchange is tourism industry overlook certain setbacks such as the fact that sometimes they are not prepared to meet and support such a vast amount of people. Most of the islands in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, try to make the best out of this, taking everything out of the environment and causing damage to their land that sometimes can be permanent. Not only do they use up their natural resources to support the growing tourism industry, but they also deprive local population of what is righifully theirs. It is sad to see how developing countries try to stay afloat in this competitive world, how they are pressured to do everything and anything so that they could be economically one step up from where they were before. Yet, all they do is take and take without putting much back in. It doesn’t work that way, in fact, everything and everybody in some way depend on one another. This brings us to the point that even tough economic well being and development of the country depends on this multi-million industry, tourism has its downside. Negative effects caused by tourism industry can be very costly to the country and its population. For the island of Jamaica as well as other islands, the effects include pollution animal and plant extinction, coral reef destruction, inadequate sewage and waste disposal system, deforestation, destruction and erosion of the beaches. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but as the time goes by, the problem intensifies especially if there is nothing done about it. Local community suffers as well, through shortages of water and natural resources; most of the local population of Jamaica does not directly benefit from the industry at all. An example of this would be the food that is used by hotels, it is exported and almost nothing is purchased from the Jamaican community. Jamaica's Fragile Environment and Tourism Jamaica is an island paradise located in the northern Carribean. It is one of the islands that is visited by hundreds of thousands tourist annually. The main attraction is its natural beauty: sandy beaches, clear water, distinguished wildlife, and, of course, warm climate. Jamaica has been once known as the land of wood and water, and the rich diversity of flora and fauna is still amazing to this day. There are reported to be about 3,000 species of flowering plants alone, 827 of which are not found anywhere else. There are also 25 species and 21 subspecies of birds which are found nowhere else.2 Jamaica relies heavily on its tourism industry; however, in the process, ecology of the island is suffering. Every little thing that is done to accommodate tourists sets Jamaica one step back on the environmental scale. This is also due to the fact that there is little done to improve present conditions of the island. The government, in an attempt to encourage tourism investment, has let the hoteliers to keep their money where they want. Basically, the owner or operator of an approved hotel enterprise or resort cottage is entitled to relief from income and dividend tax for a period of up to ten years. In addition, the owner may also benefit from a duty exemption on imports for constructing or expanding hotels3. So, all of this profit is usually kept in private offshore accounts or invested in other projects overseas. Thus, it is not even certain what percent of the money generated from the industry is put back into the national economy and improvement of the ecology. Pollution: The Effects of Increasing Population and Consumption Recently, a lot of researchers have been paying attention at how the island has been stressed by heavy population load. The island’s visiting population has more than tripled in twenty years — now equal to almost half the size of its native, resident population. Although the impact is rather different if the transient population increases at this rate than if the permanent population does, an increase in the tourist population of this magnitude poses very similar challenges and problems as any other kind of population increase.4 In addition to the increasing number of tourists, the migration of native people in search of jobs drawn bytourism growth has led people to live in environmentally vulnerable locations. Such areas are already exposed to unfavorable conditions, and more pressure caused by constant overuse of these territories by people makes it more damaging to the island and its inhabitants. The heavy flow of tourists is also related to the pollution of the environment. Ordinary things that we usually don’t dwell on very much can have severe consequences on such a small island as Jamaica. The use of airplanes to transport people to and from the island, growing number of vehicles contribute to pollution. This is a serious threat to an island of such proportions, the areas available to people are highly sensitive to the wastes produced by the vehicles and sewers which are dumped into the environment of the island. Pollution ranges from unclean air to contaminated waters, and, in the case of Jamaica it’s both. Jamaica’s inadequate sewage disposal system has been the cause for worries for some time now, throughout the island. Even tough the large hotels generally have treatment plants, the effectiveness of such is very questionable. Studies indicate that the average tourist ingests ten times as much water and produces three times as much solid waste as the average resident.5 Discharges from the sewage systems are usually dumped into the ocean waters or nearby bay (as is the case in Ocho Rios). Not only does this causes pollution, destroys the wildlife of the ocean, it also prohibits local population from using the bay and nearby waters. It also deposits fecal matter, nitrates and phosphates, thus polluting the coastal waters that are critical for both the area’s ecology and for its tourism industry. These deposits also stimulate the overgrowth of algae that smothers coral reefs. Also, due to the deposits of disposals, there is an increase in nutrients in the water which cause fluctuations in the oxygen supply and distribution. This affects all aquatic life and is a source of various diseases through seafood. The volume of waste that is being treated and the efficiency of the operators are factors that greatly affect the effectiveness of the treatment systems.6 Unfortunately, ocean waters are used as a dump, not only by resort areas, but also directly by both residents and tourists. The sea floor was littered with bottles, plastic cups, animal bones from kitchen garbage, even old furniture and unused building supplies, while the surface had a white scum littered with floating citrus rinds and other debris.7 Pollution and Water Shortage The problem of sewage disposal is directly tied to that of water shortage. With Negril used as an example, research showed that obtaining enough water to operate hotel business properly was the biggest challenge in Jamaica. As it often happens most areas have been overbuilt beyond the capacity of the local reservoirs to provide enough water. For those on the beach this includes watering lawns while for those in the West End it means washing dishes, laundry, providing toilet flushes and showers for guests. In the case of Negril, this discrepancy is because water flows from the Blue Hole reservoir in Logwood carried throughout Negril by two inch pipes along roads and by one half inch pipes from roads to buildings. The resort areas and beaches receive water first. Several hotels keep holding tanks full for insurance when pressure is poor or nonexistent. Beach hotels contribute to this problem by filling tanks at night to replenish supply, leaving properties in the West End without water pressure during evening and night hours. There is deep resentment between small West End hoteliers against hotels on the beach that receive water before the entire community could be equally served. The big hotels that are serviced first are usually the primary polluters of the often overflowing and inadequate sewage plants. So, the tourism industry has taken water supply away form the local community only to serve as a pollutant of the environment. Tourists are used to taking a shower and/or bath after every swim or whenever they feel like it and flushing after every use of the toilet regardless of the results. As noted earlier, all of this water is delivered by very small pipes and the ones that carry the wastes out are not much larger in size, which causes the problem of overflowing. Resort areas are not concerned with where the wastes go, as long as they have enough water and can accommodate they clients. Overbuilding of tourism is the real problem for the conditions that caused these consequences in the first place. However, no matter how you look at this problem, in the long term, limited land areas make the option of disposal unsustainable. Pollution and Corals The consequences of the sewage disposal system include degradation of coral reefs. Due to this problem as well as others coral reefs are diminishing in size and number. The destruction of coral reefs along the coastline by tourists and cruise ships is the biggest problem that marine biologists are concerned with right now. Coral reefs support the most diverse ecosystems in the ocean and are very important to the life of the marine world.8 Without coral reefs the beaches will disappear as well as supporting fishing, diving, and snorkeling operations, all of which are important assets of tourism industry. Coral reefs of Jamaica had suffered damages from small boat anchors, boat groundings, and snorkelers ans scuba divers. These tourism industry problems go hand in hand with atop erosion, sewage, oil spills, and over fishing. The degradation of coral reefs is important because they are to the marine world what tropical forests are to life on land.9 Now, biologists are becoming concerned with the growing number of medium sized and large cruise ships which are filled with people visiting Caribbean. Many of those ships, when entering such environmentally sensitive areas inflict serious damage to coral reefs with their anchors and anchor chains. So, not only do these ships cause damage, they also bring in tourists who congest and crowd beaches, also leading to coral breakage and other damages. According to researchers, the fish population in the area around the damaged coral reef thinned during the period of two years (the length of observation period). Recovery of coral reefs is usually lengthy and slow in process, but vary from place to place and depend on the amount of damage received. Coral reefs take up to fifty years to recover, and some do not recover at all. Such species of corals as star and brain take centuries to grow back to the size before the damage. Most of the time only ship captain knows when an anchor crashes onto a reef, but usually is not aware of the damage being done. More often than not, damage occurs without people realizing what are the consequences of their actions because they are not educated about habitat of the ocean and the role they play in it at that moment. According to recent studies, most people do not want to intentionally destroy a marine ecosystem.10 Decline in Biodiversity The current decline an biodiversity of the island is a serious threat. The human activity causing the loss of biodiversity is many sided. The conversion of more and more land to agriculture and resort areas leads to loss of habitats that are crucial to animals and plants; disappearance of tropical forests, pollution and construction works also contribute to loss of habitat. Due to the increasing demand of tourism industry, more land is being converted to resort areas and new roads. Such hotel and road constructions lead to the destruction of dune barriers and natural environment. Few years back, Jamaica’s beaches were lined by dunes of sand. Dune barriers usually line the beaches along the sea shore formed by storm seas and serve as a protection barrier for the land behind ir from flooding and erosion. Dunes of sand of Jamaica were covered with vegetation that grew upwards through each deposit. An extensive root system bound the sand in such a way that when destructive storm seas struck the coast, the wave energy was absorbed and the dune barrier protected the land behind it.11 The construction of numerous buildings, hotel activities and the heavy use of public beaches have led to the removal of the dunes, thereby leading to erosion of many beaches. In addition to disappearance of dunes, the construction industry is the cause for sand elimination from the beaches. By replacing beaches and forests with newly built hotels and roads for tourism industry, more pollution is created. It can actually cause ‘architectual pollution", a condition where resort facilities clash with the native surroundings and architecture.12 Wildlife can also be affected by tourism, since much of the industry is geared toward photography, animal watching, and plant observation and cultivation. Besides construction sites intruding on their lives, tourism can disrupt feeding and breeding patterns of animals, sometimes it can even force the wildlife to relocate. Littering in the area and feeding animals attracts wildlife to tourist areas, thus altering their natural patterns and habitat. Coastal resort developments of the area, deforestation, as well as tourism cause wildlife give up their environment and move further away from their original habitat. They have to adopt to new areas of living, adjust to overcrowdingioverpopulation in one region, and adjust to scarce food and water supply. The tourism industry is responsible for wildlife relocation, but sometimes is the reason that animals and plants become extinct. In such cases nature is ruthlessly destroyed, and often it is not even known how particular animal and plant species were wiped out. Collection of plants or careless use of fire can destroy plant life. Littering causes changes in soil nutrients, affecting vulnerability of the plants. Many migration birds stop in Jamaica on their journey north to south.’3 The diversity of plant and animal life is in jeopardy due to the destruction of forests, building of new resort areas and simply negligence mostly on the part of tourists and then local population. With the destruction of habitat, there is loss of traditional ways of life which also leads to the loss of knowledge of local plants and their medical and other uses. The increasing demand of wildlife souvenirs by tourists, attracts local population to the monetary value, thus rewarding the destruction of animals. The crafts industry had contributed to the destruction of environment by causing reduction of coral formation and encouraging theft of coral reefs for souvenir production. A 20-year study by scientists showed that habitat destruction and introduction on non-native species have caused approximately 12.5 percent of the world’s plants to now be so rare, they could easily disappear.4 Plants clothe us, feed us and our animals, provide us with most of our medicines; yet, we continue to destroy it. According to research, 91 percent of endangered plant species are found only in a single country. Jamaica is faced with threats to its flora as well as fauna, where the percentage of threatened plants reaches 20 to 40. In order to be considered as "threatened", a species must have reached the point at which there were fewer than 10,000 individuals worldwide, or fewer than 100 locations were it could be found. Studies show that ‘11 percent of all birds and 25 percent of all known mammals species are threatened.15 A lot of this is due to agricultural loss (cultivation of land); tourism industry also has a great impact, especially on small islands such as Jamaica. Tourism industry that might be damaging plants species locally, is affecting environment globally. Since plants have been providers of many pharmaceutical drugs, extinction of certain species could affect medical science. The loss of endangered plant species would also mean limiting possibilities for improving agriculture. Deforestation, as well as coral reef damage can threaten certain plants’ existence. Very often in some parts of Caribbean, there is not enough information available or no information at all to assess properly the conservation of plants. According to research, Jamaica is a sad-record holder in a highest local deforestation speed. Most of this is due to the fast growing tourism industry and agriculture expansion. Though, a lot of land is used for agricultural purposes, it’s very rare when the hotel businesses purchase anything from the local population. They prefer to export foods because their customers demand familiar menu and the tastes they are used to. With deterioration of ecosystem, the problems can be very expensive, economically, to reverse. For example, the near complete wipe out of trees and forests in the islands means that the floods during hurricanes and storms can be very damaging and maybe even deadly. Ecology and Tourism The destruction of ecology due to the fast expanding tourism industry can be very costly to the island of Jamaica and its population. The damages caused by the industry that controls country’s economy are much worse than people acknowledge. It deprives local community of Jamaica of their natural resources. They do not get enough water, flora and fauna is damaged by the large amount of people visiting, pollution is getting worse and the resources are slowly diminishing. Of course, there are benefits to the industry but at what cost; if you do not start looking into the problems now and fixing them, they will only get worse with time. If all of this is sacrificed for the tourism industry, the country has to be getting something back, something that is worth more not only to private individuals (hotel owners and operators) but to the people of the island. Deforestation, as well as coral reef damage can threaten certain plants’ existence. Very often in some parts of Caribbean, there is not enough information available or no information at all to assess properly the conservation of plants. According to research, Jamaica is a sad-record holder in a highest local deforestation speed. Most of this is due to the fast growing tourism industry and agriculture expansion. Though, a lot of land is used for agricultural purposes, it’s very rare when the hotel businesses purchase anything from the local population. They prefer to export foods because their customers demand familiar menu and the tastes they are used to. With deterioration of ecosystem, the problems can be very expensive, economically, to reverse. For example, the near complete wipe out of trees and forests in the islands means that the floods during hurricanes and storms can be very damaging and maybe even deadly. The destruction of ecology due to the fast expanding tourism industry can be very costly to the island of Jamaica and its population. The damages caused by the industry that controls country’s economy are much worse than people acknowledge. It deprives local community of Jamaica of their natural resources. They do not get enough water, flora and fauna is damaged by the large amount of people visiting, pollution is getting worse and the resources are slowly diminishing. Of course, there are benefits to the industry but at what cost; if you do not start looking into the problems now and fixing them, they will only get worse with time. If all of this is sacrificed for the tourism industry, the country has to be getting something back, something that is worth more not only to private individuals (hotel owners and operators) but to the people of the island. REFERENCES Allen, A. H. (1996). Increased Dangers to Caribbean Marine Ecosystems. BioScience 42(5), 330-335. Olsen, B. (1997). Environmentally Sustainable Development and Tourism: Lessons from Negril, Jamaica. Human Organization, 56(3), 285-293. Thullen, S. A. (1996). Tourism and its Impacts on the Environment. . Why biodiversity is fast disappearing. www.oneworld.org/panos/briefing/biodiver.htm Jamaica: Flora & Fauna. www.caribbeansuoersite.com/iamaica/fauna.htm Jamaica Tourism Impacts. www.american.edu/proiects/mandala/TED/iamtour.htm Environment: Many Plants in Danger. www.oneworld.oro/ips2/apr98/2116076.html 1. Stephanie Thullen," Tourism and its Impacts on the Environment,’ Internet (1996) 2. Internet. "Jamaica: Flora & Fauna’ 3. Internet. "Jamaica Tourism Impacts" 4. "Internet. "Jamaica Tourism Impacts’ 5. Internet. "Jamaica Tourism Impacts" 6. Barbara Olsen, Environmentally Sustainable Development and Tourism: Lessons form Negril, Jamaica," Human Organization 56.3 (1997): 290. 7. Olsen 287. 8. William Mien, "Increased Dangers to Caribbean Marine Ecosystem," Bioscience 42.5 (1996): 330. 9. Allen 331. 10. Allen 333. 11. ibid. 12. Internet. Why biodiversity is fast disappearing" 13. Internet. ‘Jamaica: Flora & Fauna" 14. Internet. "Environment: Many Plants in Danger" 15. Internet. "Tourism and its Impacts on the Environment". 16. Internet. Tourism and its Impacts on the Environment"
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