Science - February 19, 1998

International Page

International Page

International Page
Tourism: a curse or a blessing?
Some see it as a beneficial process that brings economic growth and a better standard of living in its wake. Others regard it as one of the worst evils of modern times for regions already beset with other problems. The fact of the matter is, tourism is booming
According to statistics published by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) international tourist arrivals were almost 593 million in 1996, and revenues from international travel, excluding airfares, climbed to 423 billion US, both record highs. The tourist of the nineties is looking for distant and exotic destinations. These are increasingly often located in Third World countries, reason for some to argue that recreation and tourism are successful generators of economic development. Coastal areas are especially popular. The combination of sun, sea and sand apparently forms an irresistible attraction. The downside, however, is that coastal areas are often ecologically very fragile. On the island of Majorca mass tourism has brought about a near collapse of the coastal ecosystem. Too much drinking water is wasted in an area where fresh water is scarce. The marine environment has been disturbed by uncontrolled scuba diving and snorkelling, and the skyline has been spoiled by badly planned high-rise apartments and hotels
Many of the problems arising from tourism tend to be concentrated in coastal areas according to recreation sociologist Jaap Lengkeek
Fragile
The increasing popularity of these often ecologically fragile areas was one of the reasons for the introduction of a new course Coastal Tourism. This course was held for the first time over the last two teaching terms. The course is unique in that it consists almost entirely of guest lectures from international experts on tourism
The course does not provide all the answers to the problems incurred by mass tourism, says Lengkeek. What we wanted to do was give students an idea of the problems that arise if an area suddenly becomes popular, and what planners can do to help the situation.
A guest speaker from the University of Aberdeen suggests that one of the problems is that the local population often sees little of the fruits of tourism. Up to 80% of the profits go to foreign investors. The importance of tourism for local economic development is often overemphasized. Lengkeek agrees that it is important to pose the question who profits: the local population or foreign investors? However, he believes the situation is not all gloom and doom. Ultimately the local population does profit from the developments arising from tourism. You have to regard it as a process in which local suppliers can develop gradually.
Lengkeek also prefers to take a nuanced view of the often cited complaint that the rise of tourism tends to spoil unique areas. This is a complaint that usually comes from people who have discovered an unspoilt area, and want to keep it to themselves. The fact is, we live in a changing world, although of course it's a shame if the natural beauty of an area is ruined through badly planned or unplanned urban development.
Israel
The question we should be asking is whether tourism can be left to the free market, says Lengkeek. Definitely not, according to the sociologist. A large amount of tourism makes a claim on public space. Many of the lectures given in the course devote attention to the importance of planning. In Israel, for example, nothing is left to fate. Each little piece of coast is designed, according to Professor H. Ruskin from the University of Jerusalem. Israel has no choice in the matter. The coastal area of this sunny country is being snapped up by investors. Apartments in a small marina can fetch up to one and half million guilders. Every move the government makes is watched closely by the environmental movement, which can count on a lot of popular support. The greens are very strong in Israel. If you do something which harms the countryside, they can mobilize lots of people.
One of the problems of exotic destinations is that they are often in areas where political instability and corruption are the order of the day. Planning under these conditions does not stand much chance, and that makes areas even more vulnerable explains Lengkeek
Greenpeace
Rossano Filippini has experienced this firsthand. The Italian student was on board a Greenpeace ship when he heard he had been admitted to the MSc course on Leisure and Environments. The Greenpeace boat was carrying out action against the building of a hotel on Akamu Beach in Cyprus. This is one of the few places in the Mediterranean where the green sea turtle lays its eggs. According to Filippini, who was arrested and ended up in prison for his part in the activities, the fact that the hotel was due to be built in this unique spot was the result of corruption
Filippini joined the MSC course in order to pursue his goals through the development of sustainable tourism. He has mixed feelings about the course on Coastal Tourism. He appreciates the speakers who are actively involved in tourism. He is less interested in the scientists and their models. What the course fails to address at the moment, however, is the issue of how the sea and coastal areas can be used in a more respectful way. Tourism is one of the biggest causes of environmental pressure. Sea-life is being destroyed; biodiversity is at stake. These pressing problems were not discussed. Environmental Ethics, that's what I really missed in this course.
Grass with clover is greener
Clover is an efficient green manure for grassland. The yield of a grassland area sown with clover will reach almost the same level as grasslands treated with artificial fertilizer. This is the conclusion of Mehdi Nassiri Mahallati from Iran. Mahallati will defend his PhD thesis on Friday 27 February. Under the supervision of Professor Leendert ,t Mannetje, he has adapted a computer model for use in growing a mix of grass with clover
Clover fixes nitrogen from the air, converting it into a form that grass can then use for growth. That makes it a suitable alternative to artificial fertilizer for grasslands. A problem that arises with the use of clover is that it competes with the grass for light and space. In order for the clover to be beneficial to the grass growth, about 40 - 60% of the area of a field needs to be covered with clover. In addition a clover variety with the correct leaf size and correct vertical leaf distribution must be chosen in order to maximize benefits for grass growth and minimize the amount of competition between grass and clover
Despite the fact that clover is good a low input alternative to artificial fertilizer, Dutch farmers make little use of it. Mahallati believes that this is because they are not used to using green manure. In England the farmers have been using clover for over 20 years now, and it's much more common to see grasslands mixed with clover than in Holland. According to Mahallati the best strategy is to give grass-clover mixtures a small amount of artificial fertilizer in the spring so that the grass immediately receives some nitrogen. In the summer the clover will provide sufficient nitrogen

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