Costa Rica - Environment



Costa Rica Environment 1365
Photo by: Hagit Berkovich

Nearly all of Costa Rica was once covered by forests, but deforestation for agricultural purposes and cattle ranching has reduced virgin forest to only 25% of the total area. Between 1990 and 1995, the country lost an average of 3% of its forests and woodlands annually. Most of the wood is wasted by burning or rotting, and there is little incentive for conservation or reforestation. The result has been soil erosion and the loss of soil fertility. Another serious problem, according to the UN, has been contamination of the soil by fertilizers and pesticides used in growing important cash crops, such as bananas, sugarcane, and coffee. Costa Rica's use of pesticides is greater than that of all the other countries in Central America added together. Under the General Health Law of 1973, the Ministry of Health has broad powers to enforce pollution controls, and the Division of Environmental Health has attempted to set standards for air and water quality. However, trained personnel and equipment are lacking. Carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources totaled4.6 million metric tons in 1996. As of 2001, Costa Rica has 112 cu km of renewable water resources with 80% of the total used for farming activity. Of the nation's urban dwellers 99% have safe drinking water, as do 92% of the rural population. The coastal waters are threatened by agricultural chemicals and lowlands often flood at the beginning of the rainy season.

Costa Rica's national park system is among the most extensive and well developed in Latin America. The system, covering nearly 4% of the total land area, includes 12 parks, six nature reserves, four recreation areas, the Guayabo National Monument archaeological site in the Turrialba region, and the International Peace Park established jointly by Costa Rica and Panama on their common border. Altogether, 14.2% of Costa Rica's total land area is protected. Although Costa Rica protects some 80 animal species by law, the IU recognizes only nine species as being endangered: the red-backed squirrel monkey, tundra peregrine falcon, spectacled caiman, American crocodile, four species of sea turtle (green sea, hawksbill, olive ridley, and leatherback), and golden toad. Of 205 mammal species in Costa Rica, 14 are threatened. Thirteen breeding species of birds in a total of 600 are also threatened. Seven types of reptiles in a total of 214 and 296 plant species in a total of 12,000-plus are considered endangered.

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Oct 6, 2010 @ 9:09 am
I have received a series of disturbing pictures showing the collection of many thousands of sea turtle eggs on a Costa Rican beach. The eggs are put into large bags and are taken off to be sold.

Are Costa Rican authorities aware of this distructive practice? Is anything being done to protect this beach and these animals' efforts to reproduce?

I am anticipating a trip to Costa Rica in January 2011 to observe the Costa Rican government's environmental protection iniatives of which I've read so much. Can such an enlightened government be overlooking this enormous issue?

If provided with an email address, I will forward these pictures for your review. I look forward to your reply.
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Mar 30, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
Sally,
My name is Chris Throckmartin and I am a senior Eco-Tourism major and would appreciate the photos for review. Thank you kindly.
Chris
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Jul 30, 2011 @ 1:01 am
The shocking photographs showing sea turtle eggs being stolen have been 'doing the rounds' for several years. I have written to the Costa Rican government but recieved no reply. I would be interested to know what conclusions you reached regarding this issue during your recent trip. An 'interenet petition' to the Costa Rican government would, no doubt attract millions of signatures and bring this tragic practice to an end.

Thank you

Maria
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Sep 22, 2011 @ 2:14 pm
As a Costa Rican, I agree that there is still a lot of work left to be done on this subject. About the turtle eggs collection; that is illegal and there are often raids against trafficking of turtle eggs. There is only one community project oriented for the local single moms cooperative of Ostional beach allowed to commercialize turtle eggs from the atlantic ridley species. This turtle is not endangered and its population is so large and concentrated on this beach, that the second and third waves of turtles usually dig out all the eggs laid during the first wave. Other than this controlled project, any other exploitation of turtles in any form is forbidden. Of course I won't deny there is still a black market going on, but awareness and change of consumption patterns are growing steadily among younger generations.

In terms of pesticide consumption, there is a correlation between an increased incidence of stomach cancer and agricultural productive areas in Costa Rica. I wish the new technologies coming from the biotechnology or organic research had a deeper impact in food production. I sincerely think we, as a country, should encourage development, adoption and commercialization of new production technologies to stop relying on highly toxic chemical inputs in agriculture.
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Sep 23, 2011 @ 1:01 am
As a Costa Rican, I agree that there is still a lot of work left to be done on this subject. About the turtle eggs collection; that is illegal and there are often raids against trafficking of turtle eggs. There is only one community project oriented for the local single moms cooperative of Ostional beach allowed to commercialize turtle eggs from the atlantic ridley species. This turtle is not endangered and its population is so large and concentrated on this beach, that the second and third waves of turtles usually dig out all the eggs laid during the first wave. Other than this controlled project, any other exploitation of turtles in any form is forbidden. Of course I won't deny there is still a black market going on, but awareness and change of consumption patterns are growing steadily among younger generations.

In terms of pesticide consumption, there is a correlation between an increased incidence of stomach cancer and agricultural productive areas in Costa Rica. I wish the new technologies coming from the biotechnology or organic research had a deeper impact in food production. I sincerely think we, as a country, should encourage development, adoption and commercialization of new production technologies to stop relying on highly toxic chemical inputs in agriculture.

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