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Danilo asked to intervene in problem algae on the beaches

SANTO DOMINGO. “The large quantity of brown algae (Sargaasum) is so overwhelming on the beaches that we could say that the country is in an emergency situation, which deserves the quick intervention of President Danilo Medina and of other authorities because important decisions have to be taken.”

This was the feeling of Cesar Antonio Vargas, the executive director of the Institute of Environmental Law of the Dominican Republic and national coordinator for the program of international certification of beaches called “Bandera Azul” (Blue Flag), who expressed his worry over the situation that exists in the country.

He revealed that the amount of brown algae that has arrived on the beaches, especially those of Bavaro, is so overwhelming that every day the hotel owners take out 20 tons after cleaning the beaches. “The call is really for President of the Republic (Danilo Medina) and the principle authorities of the country to become involved because important decisions have to be taken here because of the size of the problem and because of its impact on tourism and on the coastal and marine biodiversity,” he stressed.

He said that they have to adopt hard decisions. He expressed his idea that also the authorities, through the Ministry of Agriculture, together with business and representatives of the civil society, should evaluate the possibility of taking advantage of the problem in order to determine what use can be given to the seaweed.

He felt that the guidelines recently issued by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources are not sufficient and that due to the fact that the amount of algae received in the area is so overwhelming the hotel owners have been forced to use front loaders and backhoes in order to be able to remove it, even though it is prohibited. “The protocol is not sufficient, it is not going to answer to the size and dimension of this problem,” he thought.

He recalled that the use of heavy machinery, such as backhoes, front loaders and motorized equipment will affect the beaches, because it contributes to the removal of a large amount of sand and already these beaches, in the majority, are suffering for many years of erosion. He said that these machines not only might contaminate the sand but also compact it and make the use the beach ecological system difficult.

He said that flying over in a helicopters allowed them to observe giant patches, several kilometers lon of the algae that are approaching the beaches, which indicates that the problems will continue occurring for some time.

He regretted that the situation has begun to generate problems for tourism because it is nearly impossible to swim in the affected areas, and even some turtles sometimes end up drowned by the large amount of seaweed. He revealed that the tourists and tour operators have begun to complain and threaten to change their destination.

He revealed that the hotel owners have begun to evaluate possible solutions and that there are business groups that are implementing pilot plans in this sense. He said that because they are worried about the problem the businessmen are trying to stop the seaweed before it reaches the beaches by using nets and other systems to hold it back. In spite of the worry, he said that the problem of the algae on Dominican beaches will not affect the Bandera Azul certification.

A pilot plan

In the meantime, Carlos Silie, the general manager of Environmental and Project Consultants (Capsa) revealed that together with the Desmi enterprise they are developing a pilot plan to contain the expansion of the seaweed, in coordination with a group of hotels.

This is a project which will take an initial investment of some US$200,000, and the acquisition of equipment by a well-known business group, which will include the technical assistance of Capsa and Desmi. The latter company is represented by the Ecuadorian Rolando Chavez, the general manager for Latin America.

Silie explained to Diario Libre that similar projects have been implemented successfully in Cuba and Mexico, since January and February of this year, respectively.

He made it clear that the average effectiveness is between 80 and 85%.

He said that it consists in a system which manages the ocean current, the waves, the wind velocity and through a “friendly” barrier for the environment it keeps the seaweed from reaching some 500 meters of beach. The seaweed is detoured towards a “dead point” of the beach where it is discharged to a depth of 5 to 7 m.

He noted that the project could be started in some four weeks, when the equipment arrives from overseas. Among these machines there is one which allows for the mechanical gathering of the seaweed in order to clean it up, but avoiding carrying away the sand. He said that this result can then be deposited in a dump truck, or flatbed truck and be used later on for biomass.

Dead fish

Marine biologist Yolanda León, who works in the Jaragua Group and at Intec, released photographs which were taken by Julio Cesar Ortiz which show part of the great die-off of fishes and other marine organisms which has been reported on the El Can beach, located in the Jaragua National Park, close to Juancho, in Barahona. She believes that this event is due to the decomposition of the algae which reaches the coasts and to other factors such as high temperatures. She assured the reporters that the problem is not new in the Caribbean ;it happened in 2011.

Source: DiarioLibre

July 14, 2015

Category: DR News |

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