With the rapid growth of the local population, knowledge and management of the relationship between populated areas and protected areas is increasingly important, both for the integrity of natural ecosystems and for the local population, whose development depends on the health of the natural environment.
The grounding of Jessica was the first big wake-up call for the consequences of unsustainable human development.
Today, Galapagos has contingency plans, wind energy systems, solid and liquid waste management plants, technical equipment, continuous monitoring, public awareness campaigns and the day to day work of several institutions to give relief to the increasingly pressured natural capital.
But the unprecedented growth of the province continues to challenge the management of the populated areas in their relationship with the natural environment, which it depends on for its development.
To prevent another disaster, like the grounding of Jessica demands planning at the national and provincial level. Locally, there must be effective environmental management of the populated areas of the archipelago.
The Directorate of the Galapagos National Park acknowledges, in its Management Plan, that the work of managing the protected nature areas goes beyond the boundaries of National Park.
Land use and urban sprawl
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), Galapagos is the province with the largest population increase in the country with a growth rate such that the population doubles every 10 years.
National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC)
Based on official census figures (conservative in any measure), it is estimated that the real population of the Galapagos in 2010 will be close to 30,000.
This increase puts pressure on natural capital.
With increasing population, energy demand for mobilization, lighting and appliances will perpetuate the dependence of millions of gallons shipped from the mainland to the Galapagos each year.
Moreover, the increased travel of the local population and the large amount of food brought from the mainland will increase the risk of introduction of invasive animals and invasive plants in Galapagos.
The Directorate of the Galapagos National Park is aware that good planning of land use in populated areas is essential for the protection of natural capital to which the population depends on.
Thus, with the support of Araucaria XXI, the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park supports the Municipality of Santa Cruz and INGALA with funding for experts in land management.
Renewable energy in Galapagos
In response to the first problem, the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy of Ecuador carried out the project on E Renewable Energy for Galapagos (ERGAL).
The project aims to support sustainable development in Ecuador, reducing CO2 emissions related to electricity generation through the introduction of photovoltaics, wind and biofuels (pure vegetable oil pinion) as substitutes for fossil fuel (mainly diesel) used in electricity generation in the Galapagos archipelago.
Conceived as the ‘Umbrella Project’, ERGAL is intended to optimize use of resources destined to the re-electrification of Galapagos with technologies based on renewable energy resources.
One of the first initiatives in this field was the “Integration Project for the Sustainability Infrastructure of Floreana Island”, conceived in 2000 by the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park through the Spanish cooperation program Araucaria, which saw the construction of an infrastructure for electrification of the island based on solar energy.
Despite having little more than 100 inhabitants, the project still cannot supply more than one third of the energy demand, a demand that is growing. The maintenance of the facilities, and securing funds for the eventual replacement of the batteries that store electricity from solar energy are the current priorities.
In 2007, wind power came to Galapagos and Ecuador, with the first mills in the country installed on the island of San Cristobal.
The San Cristobal Wind Project has as its main objective to replace, as far as technologically and economically possible, the existing power generation based on combustion of diesel, with a clean source of energy based on wind turbines in order to make optimal use of this renewable source and avoid environmental hazards caused by the current system.
In the first 12 months of operation, 2.543MWh was delivered to San Cristóbal Island, which is equivalent to 31% of the total consumption of the island. This represents 2.034 tons of CO2, avoided from being expelled into the atmosphere..
Management of introduced species in populated areas
In Galapagos, where communities are in constant contact with nature, introduced animals – whether pets, farm animals and pests – are a serious threat to natural ecosystems adjacent to populated areas.
To meet the challenge of managing introduced species in populated areas, an interagency committee chaired by the mayor of the canton, takes measures for their control. The committee is composed of several donor institutions and participants, such as the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park, the Charles Darwin Foundation, the SICGAL (Galapagos Inspection and Quarantine System), as well as NGOs, the Environmental Police, hospital directors and agricultural representatives, among others.
The work of the CIMEIs includes activities such as:
- Pet Census
- Community education on pet ownership and introduced species
- Certification and implementation of identification chips in pets
- Deworming, sterilization and other veterinary services
- Capture of runaway or abandoned pets
- Deportation or euthanizing of abandoned pets
- Control of pests such as rodents and insects
- Fumigation Services
- Management of poultry in areas populated
In 2009, the CIMEIs operate independently in Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. In Isabela there is no such committee.
The CIMEIs are working towards self-financing their activities. It is expected that in the following years they will join at the provincial level to ensure its proper functioning in the future.
Environmental management in the Municipalities of Galapagos: waste management
The Municipal Governments exert their jurisprudence in San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela unevenly, but step-by-step, efforts are united towards a common vision desired for the future of Galapagos..
The Galapagos National Park Directorate, with support from the Araucaria XXI the Spanish Agency of International Development Cooperation (AECI), began work in 2003 creating the first Environmental Management Units in the municipalities of Galapagos, as the unit responsible for running the municipal environmental policy in their respective cantons.
Since then the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park has maintained support of the Municipal Governments, encouraging the use of appropriate technologies for the management of solid and liquid wastes.
Activities of the Municipal Environmental Management Unit began in 2007 in San Cristóbal, under the auspices of the Galapagos National Park and AECI, starting processes of collecting, classification and waste treatment, both in San Cristóbal and in Floreana.
In addition, the DGNP is directly supporting the Municipality in the canton with the construction of a wastewater treatment plant by way of donations from the reparation funds given after the spill of B/T Jessica, mentioned previously.
In Santa Cruz, the World Wide Fund (WWF) with funding from Toyota supports the County’s recycling efforts.
On this island, the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park, through the Araucaria XXI Program, has realized the construction of facilities at the Fabricio Valverde Environmental Park (originally launched with support from the Fundación Galapagos), which consists of a collection center for classifying, treating and storing recyclable waste, and a composting plant where organic waste is treated.
Quality of water and sewage
There isn’t distributed drinking water in Galapagos, and little sewage. Drinking water is bottled, and processed in small desalination plants. For waste, each household uses its own septic system, so that waste is dumped into the soil, and seeps, sometimes to catch systems of the same water for desalination and human consumption.
Despite several different planning efforts and projects, the reality of drinking water and sanitation for the Galapagos communities is still some years away.
Good management of water resources of the Galapagos is essential not only for human development, but to preserve the integrity of natural ecosystems.
Under stringent studies and monitoring of water quality, in collaboration with other institutions, local, national and international, the DGNP seeks to minimize the risk of contamination and waste of fresh water from the local population.
With the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the National Directorate of Galapagos began in 2005 a project to know the status of water quality in the Santa Cruz Island and then from 2007 on the islands of Isabela and San Cristobal.