The Environmental Impact
The Dominican Republic (DR) is an eclectic host to many diverse species of plants and animals. Home to more than 5,600 plant species, 300 bird species, 20 land mammal species, 4,000 different species of fish, and 700 types of coral species the DR has a great responsibility to care for the environment (The Nature Conservatory).
Unfortunately mass tourism has affected much of the landscape and in therefore the wildlife. Many major threats are reported to be plaguing the nation such as deforestation, water shortages, soil erosion and subsequent coral reef damage (World Wildlife Foundation and CIA World Factbook). Many of these issues stem from the development of the tourism industry. As more and more accommodations are built in the DR more of the rainforest and forest areas are destroyed. The lack of trees often lead to soil erosion and the sediment runs off into the ocean and sea destroying many key habitats. Coral bleaching occurs and damages coral reefs and other areas such as sea grass beds don’t receive sufficient sunlight. These sea grass beds and other habitats like mangroves have been cleared from the commercial beach areas (WWF). All-inclusive resorts and other hotels promise pristine beaches with white sand and clear water throughout the DR so companies clear the area to allow for “better” beach access.
For more information on the affect of tourism on the DR’s environment read this article by Valeria Vilardo. Translated from the newspaper Tierramérica based out of Pedernales, DR.
Other pollution associated with development, in addition to sedimentation, has led to the continued degradation of the water quality (WWF). The rapid urbanization experienced by the country is causing water resource management issues. Tourism has been identified as a factor leading to dumping of untreated wastewater, solid waste along the coast, overexploitation of groundwater, and limited clean water resources available to local communities (WWF). Water resource pollution affects the environment but also the population at large. The CIA identified the DR as having a high degree of risk for waterborne diseases such as bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever (CIA World Factbook). Additionally, 15.3% of the population does not have improved access to safe drinking water, both urban and rural populations. Although many companies are taking initiatives to change that such as the P & G Children’s Safe Drinking Water.
When analyzing the effects on the environment it is important to also consider other hazards such as global climate changes, hurricanes, cyclones, and other severe weather events which also negatively impact the DR’s climate and in turn landscape and wildlife. Considering the impact of other sources one must also keep in mind that mass tourism and rapid development has caused a majority of the problems for the DR and is polluting their natural beauty.
For a final article you can click here to read “Tourism and Its Environmental Impact on the DR Coastline” by Jake Kheel a correspondent for the The San Juan Star.