The degradation of the environmental quality of Dominican beaches has surfaced far more frequently than expected in the country’s tourism hotspots. Tourism and hotel operators are monitoring with concern the many changes in local beaches, especially in the coastal-marine structure, with results that can negatively impact the sustainability of the tourism business.
At the end of the day, the Dominican Republic’s most prized offerings in the eyes of its tourists are its pristine beaches, the Caribbean sun and the hotels and resorts under it. This is the reason why they must be safeguarded.
Current State of Beaches in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic features highly developed coastal areas, mostly dedicated to accommodation tourism under the all-inclusive regime, a model that became a worldwide success. Land use in these areas has changed over the last century: it went from ranching and coconut plantations to real estate destined to the creation and operation of hotels for a large number of tourists. The impact of this new use in the coastal area had and still has significant environmental repercussions —some negative, such as beach erosion, which should be looked after by tour operators, key stakeholders in achieving the sustainability of their investments.
This new use has sometimes been deployed to the detriment of certain natural resources that carry out essential functions for the sustainability of the coastal-marine ecosystem. Indeed, as repeatedly stated by renowned marine biologist Francisco Geraldes, who has collaborated with Quiroz Santroni for the past six years as an environmental specialist, one of the greatest matters for concern is the hydrological transfer of great volumes of water to the hotels in the coastal strip —a sandy beach ecosystem—, modifying its natural original process. These beaches are mainly affected by changes in reef biodiversity and structure, at times reaching the shoals and allowing for a larger penetration of water, which in turn results in beach erosion and loss of sand.
In that same vein, other activities such as dredging, the use of anchors, over-fishing, seaweed removal and the use of boats can also generate similar results in the country’s beaches.
Sustainability Proposal for Dominican Beaches
Given this outlook, there has never been more urgency to create restrictive regulations for both land use and the activities allowed in the coastal-marine sphere. A junction of key elements is required in order to achieve the sustainability and preservation of Dominican beaches. These are:
- Authorities should incorporate zoning plans and land use regulations for each area, supervising their enforcement;
- Resorts should be conceived under a pro-environmental framework;
- Tour-operator activities should comply with stricter pro-environmental rules;
- Construction parameters according to land use regulations should take into account each area’s environmental carrying, regeneration and recovery capacities, especially for Dominican beaches;
- Tour-operator activities within these beaches should be strictly regulated, and these regulations should be strictly enforced;
- The environmental degradation of the country’s beaches should be continuously monitored, along with other areas of environmental interest.
The ultimate goal is to ensure the sustainability of the tourism industry, to preserve and highlight the value of the country’s natural resources, to enhance the urban environment and to diversify our tourism products and services. Once again, in order to meet these goals we require the joint participation of regulators, the public sector and the private sector. The cost of not doing so is far too high for both sides.