Hi Urban Nomads. Welcome to another issue of the nomad chronicles. As I was searching on the possible places to visit after the Covid-19 crisis is over, I happen to stumble onto a video showing Boracay beach in the Philippines being covered by waste. I was shocked at the images that I saw. As such, I will be writing about the negative impacts of tourism using the case study of Boracay.
The video above sparked my interest in the issue
Boracay has been consistently voted as one of the world top beaches to visits. Hence, it is no wonder that it draws many tourists to it beach every year. The beautiful beach allows tourist to engage in a wide range of activities such as jet skiing to superlative snorkeling (Ong, 2011). Sadly, these days, the popular island of Boracay can boast neither.
Its once-crystal-clear waters have unfortunately been tainted by sewage and garbage. With a large number of hotels and businesses to cater to the booming tourist population, there has therefore been an increasing strain on the infrastructure in Boracay. According to reports, there was an average of about 85% of residential and business properties on Boracay which did not have proper, authorized sewage facilities.
This has therefore resulted in untreated septic waste to be dumped into the oceans. The main factor driving this irresponsible behavior has been attributed to it being more cost efficient (Bill, 2004). The island produces a whopping 90 to 115 tonnes of trash daily, with its infrastructure only being able to handle and remove 30 tonnes a day (Smith, 2011). As the septic waste enter the water sources, it becomes a sink, affecting not only clouding the once clear water, but also can percolate, polluting ground water sources.
Illegal discharges of waste into the Sea
This waste often contains toxic pathogens like E. coli (from human waste) and micro-plastics which can be introduced into the environment. In addition, it also creates a hypereutrophic state due to the input of nutrients, leading to algae bloom and affecting the eco-system ( as it blocks out sunlight, leading to an oxygen deficient waters) (Bill,2004)
Algae found along the shores of Boracay
However, corruption could have played a key in the unlawful release of septic waste into the environment. Residents and business owners told CNN and the New York Times that have requested for infrastructure to process the waste and garbage generated by the tourism boom — but help never came. The promise of proper waste management solutions failed to deliver, resulting in the island’s simply dumping the waste just off its shores (Smith, 2011). As state officials mishandle the resources allocated to tackle the crisis, this has resulted in the continued deterioration of the environment. The constant flow of tourist has also not abated in spite of the water pollution in Boracay. In fact, it has grown. In 2017 alone, the island attracted 2 million visitors, the New York Times reported. As such destinations remain extremely popular due to the proliferation of social media, this highlights the importance of implementing a sustainable model to deal with the pollution.
To conclude, tourist, business operators and the state play an integral part in ensuring the protection of Boracay. There is a need for renewed efforts to tackle the problem. In fact, Duterte (the president of Philippines) has expressed his condemnation of Boracay’s failure to sustainably develop and have threaten to shut it down. However, there is a lack of information about its strategy to clean up the beaches. As a tourist, I feel that we have the power to petition for changes. As much as we are the problem, we might just be the solution. By making a well-informed decision to avoid places with an unsustainable model—It would create a drastic fall in tourist numbers which may just be the shock needed to address the issue formally. Until then, the fate of Boracay’s shores remains to be seen.
Ong, L. T. J., Storey, D., & Minnery, J. (2011). Beyond the beach: Balancing environmental and socio-cultural sustainability in boracay, the philippines. Tourism Geographies, 13(4), 549-569. doi:10.1080/14616688.2011.590517
Smith, R. A., Henderson, J. C., Chong, V., Tay, C., & Jingwen, Y. (2011). The development and management of beach resorts: Boracay island, the philippines. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 16(2), 229-245. doi:10.1080/10941665.2011.556343
(Bill) Carter, R. W. (2004). Implications of sporadic tourism growth: Extrapolation from the case of boracay island, the philippines. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research: Cultural Tourism in Asia Pacific, 9(4), 383-404. doi:10.1080/1094166042000311264