VIEQUES AND ITS CHALLENGES

Vieques Island lies about 13 km east of the Puerto Rican mainland. The name “Vieques” comes from the Taino Indian word “bieke (small island)”. Bioluminescent bay and unspoiled nature are popular among visitors, there’s less tourist rush here  than in Culebra Island. Maybe the reasons are as follows: scattered tourists spots, no world-famous beaches, its political background etc. Thanks to those factors, we can have a very relaxing time in this island.

The U.S. Navy used Vieques as a bombing range and testing grounds. Whereas they have left here already, still lots of problems seem to exist. When the military was here, they occupied almost 3/4 of this island and used the weapons like napalm, depleted uranium and Agent Orange(the defoliant). Those military exercises have profound effects on the local people and the environment. Contaminations have led to high rates of cancer and high levels of heavy metals and toxic substance in plants, animals and humans. A widespread anger and persistent efforts could finally win a victory; Puerto Ricans force United States Navy out of Vieques Island in 2003. But nature, once destroyed, will not easily return to its former state. To make matters worse, the local people still exposure to dangerous substances, because piles of debris remain in this place. 

 

 

After the withdrawal of military’s occupation, people’s interest shifted to the potential for Eco Tourism. Fertile land, diversified organisms and beautiful beaches are fascinating the tourist. And finally this place was selected as one of the “TripAdvisor 25 best beaches in the world”. Now Puerto Rican Government preserves most of this island as Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge contains beaches, coastal lagoons, mangrove wetlands, and upland forested areas.

 

Vieques gives us opportunities to consider what we have to do. The circumstances that each countries have are probably completely different to Vieques. But I have not doubt that handling the problem of pollution and realizing sustainable development play an important role in creation of a better society.

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