Boca Chica at risk to lose its beach
SD. “This is like having a little rim of something. This is not a beach where one can go to sit down and play.” The opinion of Mrs. Isidra Rodriguez, a regular visitor to Boca Chica, is perhaps the best description of the erosion which affects this beach which has reduced its dry sand area in several parts.
The sea has gained ground in spaces which before were just sand, coming close to substructures and undercutting their foundations. The owners of businesses have constructed walls to avoid the impact of the water, and some of the typical palm trees have their roots submerged in water.
Mario Pedro Zapata, the same as Yessy Colon, members of the Association of Beach Chairs, recalled separately that a few years ago they could place up to 17 lines of chaise lounges, but now there is barely space for one or two. Colon remembers sometimes in which they were even playing baseball on the seaside which now won’t even let somebody walk along some stretches.
“The truth is I don’t know how any sand remains in Boca Chica,” questions the director of Planning and Projects of the Ministry of Tourism, Maribel Villalona. Her question is due to the fact of the heavy impact that she says this beach has suffered, and its sands are totally solidified by the overuse. She warns that the beach is at risk of being lost if there is no intervention.
The situation of Boca Chica was documented in the study: “Analysis classification and Geo – environmental management proposal for the beaches of the Dominican Republic,” carried out by the Spanish environmental consulting company Qu4tre, for the Ministry of Tourism, three years ago.
“The beach shows at some points a scarce surface which is shown with protective measures in order to minimize its impact, with a high degree of compaction, due to the intensive and invasive use of the beachfront. This erosion is due to the interruption of the coastal drift coming from the East, which is impeded by the breakwaters which affect it,” concludes the study.
To the naked eye, the situation which affects the public part of Boca Chica, is quite different from the reality which is seen on the beaches in front of some private hotels, such as the Hamaca and Don Juan, where the extension of the beach can be seen to be much wider. However, the use of the beach and these frontal areas is reserved for the hotel guests, with any “stranger” invited to withdraw when he dares to sit down in this “private” part, according to some testimonies.
And it is precisely the conditioning work carried out in these hotels which is pointed out by the neighbors in the area as what is responsible for the problems that today affect the public part of the beach. Eleuterio Otaño Alcantara, the president of the Association of Beach Locale Owners, says that the problem started in 1992 when a stretch of the beach was dredged to favor the Hamaca Hotel. Starting from this time, they also did some filling with sand, but the filling of the public parts of the beach was left pending. However, as Otaño says, “the state has not maintained the beach.”
This position is also taken by the Mayor of the city, Daniel Ozuna, who says he can’t explain why the Ministry of Tourism did not begin a project of remodeling of Boca Chica which has been in the planning stage for years, and which has as its goal the rebuilding of the beach, the construction of a plaza to re- locate the beach sellers and a Boulevard.
Although the mayor does not believe that there is less sandy area in Boca Chica, he does feel that is necessary to construct new breakwaters, and that they place the filling which is pending completion.
The mayor refers to a project of the regeneration of the beach that Tourism began to implement in 2006, at a cost of some US $18 million. Back then they managed to intervene in Juan Dolio, Guayacanes, Cabarete, and Costa Dorada and rebuilt the beaches with new sand. But today, the Ministry itself admits that these were not the best moves, and that much of the filling that was done then has disappeared through the years.
“The rebuilding of the beaches is not the best option… We believe more, except in moments when the deterioration is far advanced, that the beaches have be recovered using the mechanism of freeing the space, not trying to manage it, leaving it to its natural dynamics, and placing natural traps for the sand,” explained Maribel Villalona.
Under this scheme, it is foreseen that they will relocate the vendors that are on the beach in a plaza which will be built for them. Villalona argues that all the beach businesses will have to reduce their space. According to her the weight of the chairs on the sand is in the long-term just as prejudicial, as the cars parked along the seashore.
The official has confidence in the commitment undertaken by the different sectors that earn their living in the city, with whom they have met on several occasions in order to deal with the need to recover the beach.
“They know that as Boca Chica is now they cannot continue functioning, they went through the period of anarchy, they are not making money, and the beach is at risk. Then, we all have to understand that the beach has to be protected.
Nevertheless, there is still no date for this protection to begin. The regeneration project left the Department of Planning to the Department of Tourism Infrastructure, where it is currently awaiting a public tender, according to reports. Calculations that were made at the beginning of the year estimate the cost of the project in some US $20 million.
In addition to this, Villalona also believes it is necessary that the people become aware that the beaches continue being the principal attraction of tourism in the country, and they require care and good use, independently of the fact that they are public or in front of a hotel.
The silt and seaweeds also
With the loss of space, another sign of deterioration can be added: silting and seaweeds. The presence of seaweeds is seen in the sea by the dark spots in waters that are crystal clear. It’s constant piling up at the edge of the water, forces persons such as Anastasio Espinosa, the head of maintenance of one of the businesses on the beach, to have to spend at least an hour a day picking it up and throwing it into the garbage. “The people don’t like to see this in the water. Some come, and when they see this seaweed they go, then we know that we have to go and clean the beach. We can coordinate among all the businesses to pick it up,” he says.
In Boca Chica several currents of dirty and smelly water can be seen entering the beach. Neighbors of the area say that more than 20 businesses directly expel their residual waters into the sea. Already in 2003, the Academy of Sciences of the Dominican Republic warned of the risk that this beach represented for swimmers, due to the high chemical and microbiological contamination that it had. The studies that were carried out by the Academy back then, revealed the presence of a high content of pathogens which cause sicknesses, such as pseudomonas, coli forms, and e-coli in the waters of the beach.
Last May, the director of the Boca Chica Water and Sewer Corporation (Coraabo), Fermin Brito, announced the restart of reconstruction work on the water treatment plant which he estimated has been out of service for more than 12 years. The project implies a cost of some RD $27 million, provided by the Ministry of Tourism, within its plan of an environmental and sanitary cleanup of the city.
The effect of the breakwater
Given the fact that Boca Chica is an arm of the sea, a lagoon, surrounded by the island known as La Matica and a coral reef, the Marine currents enter at its eastern end and crash into the breakwater, accumulating sand around it and carrying what remains into the center. The coastal area of beach, imcluding Andres, measures 2.8 km in length.
Category: DR News |