Carlos Argentino, one of the classic interpreters of tropical music, used to sing, “Life is more fun in the sea.” And it’s true that beaches in Latin America and the Caribbean are among the best in the world. They are public spaces that bring together all of society, and many of them contribute to the preservation of the environment and the economic development of their regions.
CNN included 19 beaches from the region in its list of the 100 best in the world, but did not explain its criteria for selection. These are the beaches and their global rankings:
6. Cabbage Beach, Paradise Island, Bahamas
12. Tulum, Mexico
18. Bahía Gardner, Isla Española, Ecuador
23. Crane Beach, Barbados
34. Cayo Paraiso, Dominican Republic
36. Bahia Solano, Colombia
37. West Bay Beach, Roatan, Honduras
40. Playa Dominical, Costa Rica
41. Negril Beach, Jamaica
47. Placencia Beach, Belize
50. Porto da Barra, Salvador, Brazil
53. Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
57. Baie de Abaka, Île-à-Vache, Haití
69. Los Roques, Venezuela
71. Laughing Bird Caye, Belize
89. Playa del Amor, Baja California Sur, Mexico
91. Bottom Bay, Barbados
95. Praia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
98. Pigeon Point, Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago
Although the vast majority of Mexican beaches are clean, the National Information System on Water Quality in Mexican Beaches, maintained by the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) identified more than a dozen beaches with higher levels of pollution than permitted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In Jamaica, beaches lilke Seven Mile Beach in Negril are disappearing because of erosion. Latin America and the Caribbean are especially vulnerable to such phenomena, since more than 73 percent of the region’s population now lives in low-lying coastal areas. The Caribbean will be especially hard-hit: A report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) indicated that from 6.2 percent to 12 percent of the Gross Domestic Product projected for 2050 will be spent on rebuilding infrastructure, ports and cities affected by rising sea levels.
That is why many cities today are confronting these issues with public policies that harmonize the reconstruction of beaches, the rehabilitation of the environment, construction of additional sewage systems in coastal communities, breakwaters, buttresses and other coastal projects. For the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB), beaches and the ecosystems of the sea and the coast are crucially important for local development. The bank therefore has financed various projects to assist efforts by its member countries, among them:
*Regional investigation on the minimum distance required between urban development and the coastline.
*Assistance with the planning and management of coastal zones, risk management and coastal infrastructure in Barbados.
*Expansion of renovation work to protect beaches in Montevideo.
*Restoration of mangroves and assistance to create the first maritime park in Haiti, Parc Marin des Trois Baies.
Looking to the future, it is critically necessary to develop integrated management models for coastal areas based on the monitoring of beaches and coastal ecosystems. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent model for identifying beaches in danger.
Latin America and the Caribbean also need a regional platform for data on bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that expose beach goers to diseases. And there’s a need to develop scientific practices against coastal erosion and contamination.
Which would you say are the most endangered beaches in Latin America and the Caribbean?