Trip to the Sewage Treatment Plant on San Cristoóbal
Today our class got the chance to tour the sewage treatment plant for San Cristobal. And because water was such an important topic for our Local 2 Global class last semester, I made sure to take notes and pictures!
First of all, San Cristobal is the only island in the Galapagos that has a wastewater treatment plant. All the sewage from the other islands is discharged directly into the ocean. As you can imagine, this causes a lot of problems not only for the costal ecosystem but also the people who swim in the water. This might seem shocking to some readers who imagined the Galapagos as a pristine and well-managed socio-ecosystem (as I did).
So why does San Cristobal have the only wastewater treatment plant in the Galapagos? Like many other public projects in Ecuador, it has much to do with the behind-the-scenes politics. Since the island of San Cristobal contains the capital (and the mayor) of the whole Galapagos arphegio, it receives a lot of political attention from the mainland. And since the mayor of San Cristobal is in the same party as Ecuador’s president, the local government was easily able to secure the funds for the plant.
Because San Cristobal has a much smaller population (6,000) than most cities in the United States, they produce much less waste as well. Accordingly, the treatment plant was tiny compared to facilities I am used to seeing in the States. When we arrived there was only one worker managing the whole plant!
I have never been to a sewage treatment plant before so I was really interested to know what they did with the waste. I learned that when the water comes into the plant, it goes through an anaerobic and aerobic process before being treated with chemicals. Then the water is poured out into big concrete containment cells, and left to dry out. It faintly smelled like poop…
But the story continues! After about 3 months of drying, solid pieces of treated waste is mixed with organic compost waste produced from the residents of the island and used as a fertilizer.
Although it seemed like I was the only student who was really interested in the talk, I think it's good for all of us to know what happens to that wastewater when we flush the toilet. I believe that as environmentally responsible citizens it is important for us to know about the whole story of the inputs and outputs of our lives, especially our waste.
Here in Ecuador- January 26
Update: I'm safe and sound in Ecuador! This country is truly beautiful, with so many breathtaking landscapes.
This picture was taken from my weekend trip to a small city called Baños (and yes, that means bathroom in Spanish). It was named Baños after the natural hot springs that have formed there. And considering the theme of the class, it was only appropriate that I post a picture with water in it.
And speaking of water, I've learned a little bit about how water is managed here in Ecuador. I'm planning on writing a little post on it soon, so stay tuned!
Ama La Vida! (Love Life!)
Hello and welcome to my study abroad blog! My name is Don and I currently a junior at the University of Richmond. "Ama La Vida" or "Love Life" is the national slogan of Ecuador, the country I will be studying abroad next semester. And just to be sure, I have included a map below for those of you who don't know where Ecuador is. I will spend the first month of the semester in the capital, Quito, and then live the rest of the semester on the island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands. As a Geography and Environmental Studies double major, I look forward to learning more about the relationship between people and the environment in Ecuador in my program with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Additionally, I will be using this blog to analyze a specific area of focus that you can read about below. Enjoy!
Ecotourism in the Galapagos
As I briefly mentioned above, my focus of inquiry while I am in Ecuador will be ecotourism. According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. Briefly put, ecotourism is a branch of the tourism industry that specifically focuses on connecting people with the environment of a particular region. However, due to the unsustainable manner in which ecotourism has sometimes been carried out, it has a bad reputation as an environmentally destructive activity that also negatively impacts the local population. That’s why it’s important that ecotourism encompasses the three components TIES listed: conservation, communities, and education.
During my time abroad, I am going to look into how ecotourism plays out in the Galapagos Islands. More specifically, I am going to investigate how the ecotourism industry on the Galapagos balances the demands of the local communities with the conservation efforts of the National Park. Ecotourism is a vital part of the islands’ economy and keeps the various institutions on the islands up and running. Sometimes though, the environmental and financial demands of these islands push aside the needs of the people themselves. The island of San Cristobal, where I will be staying, has a population of 6,000 people who make their living from the natural resources that the islands produce. And there have been many conflicts between these communities and the National Park service as to how these resources should be allocated.
While I know these issues can be complex and difficult to unravel, I hope to learn more about them through the classes I take and my interactions with the galapageños themselves. Although I’m wary that I’ll be surrounded with other Americans in my program, I want to eventually break out of that bubble to reach out to the local people to talk to them about these issues (and I’m also hoping my Spanish improves). I hope that you will join me as I learn more about ecotourism and how it plays out in the Galapagos among these various stakeholders.
In addition to study ecotourism on the islands, I will also be engaging with the community on the Galapagos through a volunteer program called Hacienda Tranquila. Click on button below to view a short overview of what Hacienda Tranquil is about and the kind of work they do