SAN JOSE – In the aftermath of Hurricane Nate that slammed into Central America last week, there is an urgent need to adapt to increasing risks of climate change, Costa Rica’s deputy minister for environment, Patricia Madrigal, told EFE.
Nate had made landfall this weekend in the state of Mississippi in the United States after devastating Central America, especially Costa Rica – which was still reeling from its devastating effects on Tuesday – while it was still a tropical storm.
“It will take us years to reconstruct the road network after Nate,” Madrigal said.
Nate, which Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis had called the biggest natural disaster in the history of the country, had left at least 10 people dead, 2 missing and more than 11,000 displaced so far.
Madrigal said the full extent of the damage caused by the storm, especially damages to biodiversity, such as the loss of turtle nests on the severely damaged beaches or changes in the coastline along some stretches in protected areas, was yet undetermined.
“We have always been at the receiving end of these problems,” Madrigal said.
Last year, Hurricane Otto had hit the region, causing similar, although less serious damage.
The minister added that owing to an increasing threat of storms, the country has been forced to adopt a specific strategy, including the preservation of mangroves that can reduce vulnerability by limiting the impact of hurricanes.
Costa Rica, however, continues to be a leading center of ecotourism owing to a rigorous conservation policy under which 25 percent of the country’s territory has been declared as protected area.
The country also increased its forest cover to 52 percent of its total area, and successfully switched to production of energy from renewable sources.
It also plans to de-carbonize the economy to reduce emission of greenhouse gases and achieve carbon neutrality by 2021, when it will mark its 200 years of independence from Spain.
Costa Rican authorities are also mulling a ban on single-use plastic bags and raise awareness about how it’s polluting the waters of the whole planet.
“Our Tarcoles river has the unfortunate distinction of being the second most polluted river in Central America; to the extent that we have a beach which is popularly called the tire beach, since it is full of tires and other trash,” Madrigal said.
The deputy minister was, however, optimistic about the future, saying that the average citizen, especially the millennials (born in the last decades of the 20th century) are more aware of the potential of ecotourism and hence more responsible toward the environment and its conservation.
“For every person who works in tourism, there are five more who benefit from it,” Madrigal says.