Concern over the environmental impact on Colombia’s “Playa Blanca” beach has been highlighted once again as the popular destination reached over 4,500 visitors over the weekend, causing authorities to turn back eager beachgoers, national media reported on Sunday.
Authorities, who recently drew the line in the sand at 4,500 visitors per day, have enacted control over entry into the popular beach situated an hour from Colombia’s prime tourist hub, the city of Cartagena, El Tiempo newspaper reported.
On Sunday, with no space for sunbathers or swimmers, the authorities had to turn back almost 32 cars by 9.30 am with those arriving on buses recommended not to enter because of the already vast numbers on the beach, El Universal reported.
The continuous high level of visitors has left authorities worried about the future conservation of the beach. Earlier in June a proposal was put forward to charge an entry fee into Playa Blanca, but the announcement sparked angry reactions from some local leaders and members of the community itself — many of whom lively solely off the business brought in by visitors.
According to El Tiempo, the decision has been deferred until dialogues on the differing party’s perspectives can be convened.
The spike in visitors to the beach have come following the construction of the Compo Elias Teran bridge in April that links Cartagena to the island of Baru, allowing tourists and locals to easily access and enjoy the beach’s white sands. Before this development, Playa Blanca could only be accessed by ferry from the small town of Pasacaballos or via speedboat from Cartagena.
According to members from the Protected Area of National Parks in Playa Blanca have previously stated that the beach has the capacity for only 3,300 visitors.
Environmental impacts of this influx of people could include damage to the coral reef, visual and aural contamination, higher demand for marine products that often do not comply with the standards of the protected area, and higher levels of rubbish polluting the vicinity. The impact on the flora and fauna in the region will also most likely be damaging.
Certain species, such as the endangered Hawksbill sea turtle, which uses the beach to lay its eggs, will also be in danger if the situation is not improved, El Universal reported.
Although Playa Blanca is one of Cartagena’s most important tourist destinations, the importance of protecting this park for future generations, animals and plants must also be recognised.