Tourism trashes ecological hotspots
Ecotourism is touted as a boon to the environment; poor locals working
as guides and hoteliers will no longer exploit natural resources for survival. But
tourists leave a lot more than footprints, according to a study announced at the fifth
World Parks Congress in Durban, South
In just 10 years, world tourism rates have skyrocketed 200 to 500
percent. Now Conservation International and the United Nations Environment Program report
that rubberneckers bring with them long-term ecological devastation.
Consider Cancun, Mexico. Only 12 families lived on this forested island
until the 1970s. Then the tourist industry arrived. Today, 2.6 million people visit each
year, and the island is naked, its forests long gone. Local facilities can process only
one-quarter of the sewage; the rest goes straight into the sea.
Biodiversity hotspots, home to extraordinary numbers of species, are
worst hit. Water siphoned for tourism can upset finely balanced ecosystems. Once natural
treasures are destroyed, tourists depart forever, leaving local peoples in worse shape than before the travel