Havana.- Cuba is demolishing buildings constructed over the natural dunes of its famed seaside resort of Varadero, in a bid to fight beach erosion at its top tourist attraction.
So far, some 19 buildings in Varadero have been razed, and another 21 atop dunes along the resort’s 22-kilometre coastline are slated to be knocked down, 10 of them by the end of this year.
Random construction is one of the main causes of erosion at more than 400 beaches around the Caribbean island nation, which is losing sand beaches at the rate of more than a metre a year, said Ivis Fernandez, an official with Cuba’s Tourism Ministry.
The authorities are also fighting beach erosion by trucking sand to beef up certain beaches in Varadero, and some 3 million cubic metres of sand have already been “replanted” in recent years.
“We’re spreading the sand through a … technique that in a short time restores the natural state of the beaches,” said Jose Luis Juanes, chief of the Department of Coastal Procedures at the Oceanology Institute of the Environment, Science and Technology Ministry.
Studies show the process of beach erosion at Varadero is irreversible, forcing officials to regularly refill the beaches with more sand, Juanes was quoted as saying by state-run daily Juventud Rebelde.
The authorities also were using suction tubes round the clock to dredge undersea sand and pump it back to shore, he said, adding the method has been used since the 1920s to expand or rebuild beaches at some of the world’s top resorts.
Like many of the world’s most popular beaches, including Cancun in Mexico, Varadero became the victim of its own success, with a runaway building boom that put too much stress on its fragile coastal environment.
Prior to l990, Varadero had just three relatively well-known hotels – the International, Caguama and Oasis – and a handful of converted million-dollar villas that had been abandoned by their wealthy owners after the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
More hotels were built since the early 90s and today the number of hotel rooms in Varadero has quadrupled to 18,742.
Varadero is the crown jewel of Cuba’s tourism industry, the country’s second-largest source of foreign revenue, after the exports of technical and medical services.
Cuba last year hosted some 2.85 million visitors and it hopes to receive some three million this year. (RHC)
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