VOLUNTEER IN THE GALAPAGOS | ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS PROJECT

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We had heard great things about a stunning, white sand beach not far from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (the main town on San Cristobal Island), so we decided to go for an afternoon adventure. La Loberia, a popular beach for tourists and locals interested in hiking, surfing, kayaking, or snorkeling, is also home to a vast amount of marine life relaxing and enjoying the afternoon sun.   

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Within a few minutes of walking along the paved road towards the beach, we reached a large hole in the ground with an immense amount of trash scattered throughout the entire area. We were so perplexed on what this massive structure was used for. When we looked closer down into the hole, we noticed old mattresses, tires, rusted tools, and tons of rubbish. We couldn’t believe that they would have this garbage dump so close to the city where tourists can easily see while passing by. What was most frightening of all, was the amount of trash that lined the road to the beach. As we walked farther and farther, we saw men chopping away with machetes making the weeds look more presentable, but it was shocking to us that all of the trash along the side of the road was left there! The winds in this region of the island seemed rather strong, so I assumed that trash was blowing from the dump onto the road, without anyone picking it up.   

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In Hawai’i, there is a public service program called ‘Adopt-A-Highway’ where various organizations across the island volunteer once a month to pickup trash in their designated portion of the road. Every month, the hotel where I worked had announcements notifying employees the exact dates that we would all get together and clean up the road. How incredible would it be if the Galapagos Islands could adopt a similar initiative to get everyone involved and volunteering together, as well as preventing pollutants from entering any drains, streams, and nearby ocean. When we had finished enjoying the incredible beach for a few hours, we headed back on the road towards town. There was a police officer walking by as we approached the large hole. When inquiring about this establishment, he told us that it wasn’t actually a dump, but a mining quarry to make cement for buildings around the island. I asked if I could take a closer look, but he told me that access was forbidden.  

Corinne then asked me, “Why would there be so much trash inside a mine?”

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The first hotel that we came across on the edge of town was Galapagos Planet Hotel. We walked in there and asked the receptionist if we could ask a few questions. Ashley, a woman from Holland, has been living on the island for three years and is married to a local gentleman from the island. I asked what her thoughts were of the large hole in the ground beside the road towards La Loberia Beach. She told me that Cerro Quemado is the location that is used for obtaining materials for people to build their homes in town. When I asked her about the trash, she said that people are supposed to dump their trash in El Progreso at the designated trash site. However, because the quarry is closer to town, many people just drive to the edge and dump their materials inside. Ashley told me that she thinks the entire area looks disgusting. She urges every single guest staying in the hotel to take a taxi because she doesn’t want her guests seeing all of the rubbish. Ashley thinks that the entire area must be cleaned and the city should add trees, plants, and flowers along the side of the road to hide the entire operation. 

The next hotel that we came across was Hotel Mar Azul, so we decided to step inside and gather more information about this site. Andrea, a female from the mainland of Ecuador, was working the reception and allowed us spend a few minutes discussing this issue. When we asked her what she thought of Cerro Quemade, Andrea also agreed that the area was horrible and should be changed for several reasons. Not only did it need to be converted because of the unappealing sight, but also to protect the animals and surrounding environment. Both people and animals that live close to this establishment are at serious risk. With such high winds, harmful toxins are spreading throughout the entire area. The Galapagos Island chain is very strictly regulated, but Cerro Quemado has no supervision. There is a bold sign beside the quarry stating that there’s a $50 fine for dumping trash in the area, but no one is there monitoring. Before we left, Andrea told us shocking details that all of the materials from the destroyed boat in Playa de Los Marinos was recently dumped in Cerro Quemado. She said that the Ministario Del Ambiente needs to find a solution to change these vital problems.

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Across the street, we walked into a third hotel called Grand Hotel Paraiso Insular. We asked the receptionist her thoughts on the mining operation. Sara was also very passionate about this issue because she has been living on the island for her entire life. When I asked her about a solution, she stated that the Municipal should organize a volunteer day for organizations such as schools, churches, hotels, and tour companies to all come together and clean up the area. This would be an incredible initiative to get the entire community involved and work as a team.  

Also, with locals from different organizations volunteering together with a common goal, this would provide an incredible opportunity to promote civic responsibility, community pride, and camaraderie for the people of San Cristobal. More importantly, those that were guilty of routinely dumping their rubbish at the site would not feel comfortable breaking this law knowing that friends and family in their community worked so hard to clean up the entire area. 

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THE SOLUTION

There are various initiatives that can help resolve this vital issue in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Most importantly, the entire area must be cleaned of all the materials - any trash, debris, or equipment. This is a MUST. If the Municipal is opposed to moving this mining operation to a different location on the island, then there needs be proper steps and regulations implemented that will ensure that this facility is used for mining instead of a toxic waste. There must be more regulation of the area with cameras, solar powered spot lights, and security personal monitoring. These measures would prohibit locals from committing this offense. 

Lava stone walls, palm trees, bushes, and flowers should be installed along the rim of the hole to make it look presentable. At Kona International Airport, tourists driving the road to the highway only see beautiful palm trees and bright, colorful flowers along the side of the road. With the beautiful scenery that they installed along the side of the road, tourists aren’t aware of the extensive machinery, old buildings, and parking lots on the other side of this barricade.

If the Municipal agrees to move the mining operation to a farther location, Cerro Quemado can be renovated into a beautiful public park for tourists and locals to enjoy exercising, reading, and relaxing in the shade. With the proper infrastructure, this park could be a perfect escape from the hot sun. Finally, this park could include a small amphitheater for tourists to enjoy live music from locals across the islands. Weekly or monthly concerts could intrigue more tourists to leave Santa Cruz island and enjoy a cultural experience on San Cristobal Island. The Galapagos Islands are one of the most beautiful regions in the entire world, and everyone should work together to conserve this natural paradise. Please visit #salvemosgalapagos on Instagram to show your support! Please visit this important petition and also support Playa de los Marinos on San Cristobal Island: CLICK HERE

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Galapagos volunteer san Cristobal