Split is a city full of breathtaking sunsets and sunrises from Riva to Marjan. It’s full of history in the city center, from Diocletian’s Palace to the Temple of Jupiter to church of Saint Dujam, and full of beautiful beaches from Trstenik to Kašuni beach. Those are three main ingredients that arouse the curiosity of tourists and fill the streets of Split more and more every year. But what impact does massive tourism have on the environment?
Since I have been in Split for almost a year, I witnessed a lot of changes. First, during the winter there were no tourists but only locals. Suddenly, from April everything started to change, even the prices in the markets. It started with bars and restaurants opening which were not working during the winter. Then, I noticed that there are more and more boats in Split’s harbor. I used to ride a bike on Riva, but it became impossible. There were so many people taking selfies on my way. I couldn’t do anything but conclude that tourist season officially started. And what is happening during the season? Let’s see…
Plastic pollution in the water
With the greater number of people in the city, we notice a greater amount of garbage on the streets. Not everyone disposes of their waste properly. We notice that there are a lot of parties on the beach at night and a lot of plastic containers and bottles left behind. These eventually end up in the sea due to the waves and the wind. Animals confuse it with food and end up eating it.
According to the statistics, the number of tourists is higher than last year, so we are also talking about the higher number of cars and buses coming and going to the bus station in summer. The more cars and buses, the higher the CO2 pollution. The quality of the air is getting worse and worse making breathing difficult for elderly, kids, and pregnant woman. It can lead to lung cancer, stroke, asthma. Like humans, animals suffer too. If you are interested in the quality of air, you can check it on https://waqi.info/
Devastation of natural resources or overfishing
Devastation of natural resources is a big problem because tourists increase the demand for seafood in the restaurants, as it is the city’s specialty, leading to uncontrolled fishing and disruption of the ecosystem. Illegal fishing is a known fact. Uncontrolled fishing further disrupts the ecosystem as fishing also catches animals that should not be caught. Overfishing can be an economic and ecological problem. The damage done by overfishing goes beyond the marine environment. Billions of people rely on fish for protein, and fishing is one of the principal livelihoods for millions of people around the world.
The destruction of corals and the habitat of marine animals
This destruction is caused by improper diving, water sports and global warming. We all know the problem with Posidonia, which takes a very long time to grow and is very easy to destroy. Water sports and the scuba diving in the summer leave a lot of harmful substances in the water. The noise caused by water sports disturbs the animals.
We all use sunscreen to protect ourselves from UV rays in the summer, but chemicals that get in the water have a negative impact on the animals that live in that environment. For example, corals. Corals are important for the sea as protectors of some smaller fishes from predators. Recent research shows that suncream which contains “oxybenzone„ becomes toxic to coral when exposed to sun. Coral bleaching is a world phenomenon. This happens when the coral is stressed and forces the algae that live on it to leave it and eventually results with the loss of symbiotic algae, known as zooxanthellae. This algae is important because it feeds off of it and eventually dies of starvation. In history we had e massive coral bleaching, for example, El Niño in the Indian ocean which left 70 % of corals white.
Deterioration of historical and cultural monuments
The tourists are here to see the history of the city, and, if only for a moment, to be a part of the history. But the pressure of mass tourism causes damage to the architecture of the monuments.
Expansion of infrastructure
The need for more accommodation to satisfy the number of tourists leads to the construction of new hotels. The green areas of the city are being ruined by new hotels.
Some countries have already decided to control the number of tourists coming across their borders. Governments may use different strategies to control tourism, such as imposing visa restrictions, implementing quotas on the number of visitors, introducing entry fees, and promoting responsible tourism practices.
For example, in 2019, Italy controlled the number of tourists in some cities such as Venice. Spain in 2022 already had special control on the licenses for hotels and private accommodation within Airbnb.
In 2019, Peru implemented measures to control the number of visitors to the iconic Machu Picchu. This included introducing timed entry tickets to limit the number of people at the site at any given time. The goal was to preserve the site and prevent overcrowding. New Zealand has considered implementing measures to manage tourism growth, such as raising visa fees and imposing tourist taxes.
Do you think it’s time for Croatia to consider such decision?
Now, in December, I see again that the city is empty. Stores are closed, bars and restaurants are working half shifts, or not at all. I can freely ride the bike again. That got me thinking – how is it to live here and depend on tourists? Is there a solution for meeting the needs of locals, tourists, environment, and nature? I believe that Split can do better, and I can’t wait to come back here in a few years as a tourist and to feel the changes that are necessary, and I believe positive.