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Why Sustainable Coastal Tourism ? /
Problems of Unsustainable Coastal Tourism
Tourism can create great pressure on local resources
such as energy, food, land and water that may already
be in short supply.
According to the Third Assessment of Europeís environment
(EEA, 2003), the direct local impacts of tourism on
people and the environment at destinations are strongly
affected by concentration in space and time (seasonality).
They result from:
- The intensive use of water and land by tourism
and leisure facilities.
- The delivery and use of energy.
- Changes in the landscape coming from the construction
of infrastructure, buildings and facilities.
- Air pollution and waste.
- The compaction and sealing of soils (damage and
destruction of vegetation).
- The disturbance of fauna and local people (for
example, by noise).
The growing number of tourists visiting sensitive
natural areas may also jeopardize nature conservation.
Some conflicts may also arise between tourism development
and other sectors such as agriculture and forestry.
Impacts on biodiversity
Tourism can cause loss of biodiversity in many ways,
e.g. by competing with wildlife for habitat and natural
resources. More specifically, negative impacts on biodiversity
can be caused
In Zakynthos (Greece), which is the most important breeding
site of the Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta), the
coastal nesting grounds along sandy beaches are disturbed,
destroyed by tourism development and tourism behaviour.
Unfortunately, the peak of the tourist season coincides
with the nesting season for the vulnerable Loggerhead
Turtles (EC, 2002).
Link to the Bio Example of Cirali.Link to the Commander
Strain on water resources
Water, and especially fresh water is one of the most
critical natural resources. The tourism industry generally
overuses water resources for hotels, swimming pools,
golf courses and personal use of water by tourists.
This can result in water shortages and degradation of
water supplies, as well as generate a greater volume
For example, the average water consumption in Antalya
City (Turkey) is 250 litres per person a day, while
the average water consumption in the tourist areas of
Antalya exceeds 600 litres. In Mallorca (Spain), water
consumption in rural areas is 140 litres per person
a day, in urban areas 250 litres, while the average
tourist consumption is 440 litres, or even 880 litres
in case of a luxury establishment (EEA, 2001).
Direct impact on natural resources, both renewable
and non renewable, from the construction of tourist
facilities, roads and airports can be caused by the
use of land for accommodation, other infrastructural
provisions and the use of building materials (sand mining!).
Forests often suffer negative effects of tourism in
the form of deforestation caused by fuel wood collection
and land clearing. This is the case in many valuable
coastal areas in Turkey where the forests were cleared
for the construction of summer houses and hotels during
the last three decades.
Mykonos: a cosmopolitan and a rapidly urbanized island
The island of Mykonos (Greece) is a well known international
tourist resort, which has experienced rapid tourist
development during the last 30 years. Parallel to the
expansion of the tourist industry (accommodation, bars,
etc.) the islandís population has also increased in
size, in contrast to other Greek islands that have lost
population over the last decades. This growth was followed
by the expansion of the infrastructure (enlargement
of the port, improvement of the road network construction
of a surface dam, etc.). These investments have further
boosted the islandís capacity to accommodate tourists
and other visitors. Problems and some signs of saturation
have already appeared: congestion, lack of parking space,
higher crime rate, water and soil pollution occur especially
during the peak summer season. A large proportion of
the islandís extremely limited land surface has either
been absorbed by intensive housing construction, tourism
development and its accompanying infrastructure or left
unused for future speculation thus causing widespread
loss of agricultural land. The two traditional settlements
in the island together with other newly developed villages
on which the tourist industry was based mainly during
the first phase of development have already been transformed
in scale, volume of built-up areas, character and environmental
quality as a result of uncontrolled and rapid development
of tourism. Rapid urbanization has also altered the
socio-economic structure and local culture. (Coccossis
H., Parpairis A., 1996).
Development of the Summer Secondary Houses in Turkey
In the Kusadasi-Davutlar area of Turkey, a coastal strip
of 30 km by 750 m has been totally covered by summer
houses during the period of 1975 to 1985. These houses
are owned by the middle and higher income residents
of the larger cities. They provide a temporary relief
from the stress of big cities, are regarded as good
investment, increasing in value over time and can be
used as permanent residence after retirement.
However, this trend has resulted in a severe loss of
forests, free space and agricultural land. Growing pressure
on the water resources has lead to a shortage of drinking
water in many areas and the waste problem is growing.
Electricity shortage and cuts have become common in
many important tourist areas.
"EL BURRERO" beach, an example for unsustainable
coastal erosion management
The project area
El Burrero is a leisure and recreational area not only
for this urban centre but also for all the inland urban
areas. Furthermore, in summer time, the regular population
of 600 to 1000 residents increases to 5000 to 6000 inhabitants.
Before the project took place, El Burrero was a boulder
beach and only one third of the beach was sandy. The
coastline continues to the south with a series of boulder
beaches, rocky platforms, intertidal pools of high importance
for biodiversity and the fisheries sector.
The project aimed to enlarge the sandy beach and make
the whole site more attractive for visitors. In order
to do so, dikes and a seaside promenade were built and
artificial sand nourishment started at some points along
ca. 500m of coastline.
Facts have proven that the project design was not at
all appropriate for the meteorological and oceanographically
and biological conditions of this site.
- At the northern area, sand accumulated against
the walls that separate the beach from the urban centre
- At the southern area with the promenade, the sand
is being dragged by the wind from the wet area to
the back of the beach. Due to this process, the sand
has already exceeded and accumulated over the promenade
- The consequences of this project over the seabed
have also been disastrous. The rocky seabed in this
zone had been colonised by a high diversity of mollucs,
invertebrates and fish. The changed sand movements
due to this project completely buried the rocky substratum
causing a drastic decrease to the species diversity
and abundance and therefore also damaging the local
economy. This negative impact did not affect only
the action area but also the rocky seabed southwards
- Also, the natural sand feeding from the sea has
importantly decreased because of the construction
of the north dyke. This makes it very possible that
torrential rains will cause in the future serious
damage to the promenade and nearby buildings
- The works undertaken by this project did not improve
the beach conditions, they rather diminished them.
During the last four years the municipal authorities
carried out actions to correct the problems caused by
this project. These measures - sand removal, watering
the sand and putting up windscreens - did not reach
their objective because again they were done without
the necessary knowledge of coastal dynamics.
During the last year the same State Coastal Authority
has been preparing a new project to correct the mistakes
of the first one. Meetings are being held with neighbourhood
associations, ecologists and municipal authorities with
the objective of finding a satisfactory solution for
Air pollution and noise
Transport by air, road and rail is continuously increasing,
along with the rising number of tourists and their greater
mobility. Tourism now accounts for more than 60% of
air travel and is therefore responsible for an important
share of air emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2).
Transport emissions, emissions from energy production
use are linked to acid rain, global warming and severe
local air pollution.
Noise pollution from airplanes, cars, motorbikes, buses,
as well as recreational vehicles such as snowmobiles
and jet skis, is an ever-growing problem of tourism,
causing annoyance, stress and even hearing loss.
Hotels are large consumers of water. A tourist staying
in a hotel uses on average 1/3 more water per day than
a local inhabitant. Energy consumption per m2 per year
by a one star hotel is 157 kWh (380 kWh in a four star
hotel) (EEA, 2003). However, most of the time the infrastructure
is not designed to cope with peak periods.
Some tourism businesses are starting to implement energy-efficiency
measures, for example hotels in the United Kingdom Ďsavedí
up to 9000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year each, between
1997 and 1999.
Construction of hotels, recreation and other facilities
often leads to increased pressure on sewage disposal
facilities, in particular because many destinations
have several times more inhabitants in the high season
than in the low season. Waste water treatment facilities
are often not built to cope with the dramatic rise in
volume of waste water during the peak. Waste water has
polluted seas and lakes surrounding tourist attractions,
damaging flora and fauna. Sewage run off causes serious
damage to coral reefs because it stimulates the growth
of algae (bloom algae) and
causing hypoxia (means low oxygen). In aquatic ecosystems,
low oxygen means a concentration of less than 2-3 milligrams
of oxygen per litre of water (mg/l). The direct effects
of hypoxia include fish kills, which not only deplete
valuable fish stocks and damage the ecosystem, but are
unpleasant for local residents and can harm local tourism.
Hypoxia is primarily a problem in the estuaries and
coastal waters, although it can be a problem in freshwater
lakes. On the other hand, bloom algae as such also represent
a huge problem. The ocean gets a red or green colour
(depending on the kind of algae) and it is unpleasant
to see the ocean like this while tourists and local
residents are not allowed to swim. Changes in salinity
and siltation can have wide-ranging impacts on coastal
environments. Sewage pollution can also threaten the
health of humans and animals.
In some locations, conventional tourism has been accused
of failing to integrate its structures with the natural
features and indigenous architecture of the destination.
Large, dominating resorts can look out of place in any
natural environment and may clash with the indigenous
In areas with high concentrations of tourist activities
and appealing natural attractions, waste disposal is
a serious problem. Improper disposal can be a major
despoiler of the natural environment. Solid waste and
littering can degrade the physical appearance of the
water and shoreline.
Development of marinas, breakwaters and shoreline development
can cause changes in a currents sediment supply and
consequently coastal erosion. Extraction of building
materials on coastal land and in near-shore areas can
harm inland forests and Posidonia beds respectively
and lead to erosion.
See Mamaia case study