Report: Tourism Depleting Crucial Water Supplies for Gambia

Posted July 10th, 2012 at 4:40 am (UTC-5)
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A British-based organization says wasteful water consumption at tourist resorts across Gambia is threatening water access and livelihoods of citizens in the small west African nation.

Tourism Concern, which promotes ethical standards for global tourism, says resorts along the Gambian coast often dig their own bore holes to obtain water for their guests.

Rachel Noble, the organization's head of policy and research, tells VOA the hotels have resorted to this practice due to inadequate infrastructure, which has made normal means of getting water not dependable. She says the tourism resorts are neither properly regulated for their water usage, nor monitored by the government.

“The problem is that, generally, this water is considered free, and it's considered unlimited, which means that people are not paying for what they consume. A vast majority of the meters in the hotel are found not to be working, the water meters, so hotels are paying the same amount regardless of their occupation level.”

Noble says the rate of consumption is depleting fragile underwater reserves, which in turn is threatening Gambia's vital tourism sector. Tourism made up around 16 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2010.

She says the Gambian government should create a new water authority, but she adds that private industry must also play a role, due to the government's reputation for stifling opposition.

“It also puts an added responsibility on international hotels and tour operators operating in the Gambia. They need to be aware of these local contexts where local people, if they are being adversely affected, they might not be able to speak without fearing some kind of negative reprisal.”

Gambia was among five areas in or near the Southern Hemisphere included in a report released Monday by Tourism Concern that illustrates how tourism's consumption of water is aggravating poverty, curtailing economic opportunities and undermining livelihoods and sustainable development. The other areas were the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania, the southern Indian states of Goa and Kerala, and the Indonesian resort island of Bali.