- Category: The Nation
- Published on Saturday, December 11 2010 05:27
- Written by Rod Hughes
- Hits: 1102
Time was when rip currents were not the only hazard in swimming or surfing at Costa Rican beaches. Sea water contamination three decades ago meant that inadvertently gulping water or having an open cut could be hazardous to one's health.
But a recent study of 100 beaches, (most of them on popular tourist locations on the Pacific coast) by the National Water Laboratory showed 92 of them to have excellent water quality.
This happy situation is in great part due to the government's blue flag program, initiated when tourism climbed to be a top foreign exchange earner, accompanied by an explosion of resort construction, especially on the northern Pacific coast.
A beach losing its blue flag rating was a definite economic blow to tourism businesses and businessmen in beach communities soon leaned on developers and local residents to clean up their acts. At least one local beach community mustered its own residents into the fight, reports Costa Rica's leading Spanish-language paper, La Nacion.
At Corozalito beach near the Nicoya Peninsula community of Nandayure, concerned neighbors banded together eight years ago to clean up their beach, which was not only an environmental hazard but also one of those valuable egg-laying and hatching sites for endangered sea turtles.
So they formed an association (Asoveco) and, with the guidence of international ecology prize winner Randall Arauz and his Pretoma organization, got to work cleaning up. They even enlisted the aid of foreign tourists staying at hotels and tourist cabins in the area to help protect the eggs and hatchling turtles.
Today, not only is the water sea water clean but as many as 150 turtles visit the sands during a single night during egg-laying season. Asoveco has even made sure that no lights can be seen on the beach because that disorients the turtles.
In fact, there are few buildings near the beach, which aided in preventing sewage contamination, still a major villain in non-blue flag areas, This is now absent at Corozalito. But residents still cannot rest on their laurels--they are watching construction of a hotel whose developers are accused of cutting a mangrove wetland at the beach.
Now, the bad news about the water study: Untested are 300 more beaches around the coastline that are classed by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICE) as being "of tourism interest." The work is cut out for the Water Lab, a dependency of the National water and Sewer (A y A) agency...