Seychelles – Tourism

The Seychelles are an African nation 1600km East of Kenya. It was uninhabited until the last few centuries, when it fell under French occupation. The culture is a mix of French, African, Chinese and Indian (the main ethnicities). The main industries are fishing, tourism and beverages. 74% of the population work in service industries, and 25% of the population is directly involved in the tourism industry. The official language is French (although Creole is spoken almost as widely), making it easily accessible to many tourists- English is also frequently used. The main food crops are sweet potatoes, vanilla farming, coconuts and cinnamon. They do not have any considerable secondary industries, so pollution rates are generally low.

Historical context

  • Seychelles gained independence in 1976
  • Their first airport was built in 1971- Seychelles International Airport, leading to a large increase in tourism, largely from Western celebrities
  • Some people (including the PM, Francis Rene) thought that tourism was deteriorating the economy, leading to the PM over throwing the president, intending to give the poor more money
  • Rene tried to decrease tourism to “keep the Seychelles for the Seychellois”
  • 1979 constitution said they were a one party socialist party, and the first draft was not passed
  • The PM was found to be involved in various crimes, such as money laundering and even murder
  • South Africa sent 43 mercenaries posing as Rugby players to depose Rene (known as the Seychelles Affair), which didn’t work- and neither did the two other attempts.
  • Democracy was restored in 1991- under harsh political pressure
  • Rene didn’t step down until 1993, when the multi-party system was enforced

Seychelles’ tourism was affected by the Persian Gulf War; afterwards the government has been trying to reduce their reliance on tourism (and failing) to reduce risks. Fishing has increased, and is now the main industry again.

Originally in 1971, plantations and tourism were largely opposing industries. Tourism was more profitable, so plantations declined. The government encouraged a lot of foreign investment to upgrade hotels and services, leading to there being many hotels and resorts, and a lot of real estate.

Tourism dependency is being reduced, the government is especially encouraging farming, fishing, small-scale manufacture and off-shore finance.

Economy generally

Seychelles has a major crack-down on piracy, as pirates cost 4% of the GDP annually- local fishing can be cost up to 46%. Seychelles has the largest incarceration per capita as a result.

The Seychelles have 14 airports, 7 of which are paved. They have the smallest population of any independent African State, this is clearly for their past tourism industry. The transport system is generally fairly good for an LIC.

Touristic appeal

Other than a socialist past and issues with piracy, the Seychelles are still quite appealing to tourists.

A lot of wildlife was eliminated upon human habitation, but this was a very small proportion compared to many similar places, such as Hawaii. The islands have still been left with many rare species. The Coco de Mer is essentially two fused coconuts, only found on 2 islands of more than 116 in total.

Much of the land is covered in national parks or world heritage sites, protecting the huge amounts of rare wildlife (most of which tourists are allowed to see). They have social gardens for  wildlife and quite a few botanical gardens.

The beaches have a very good reputation, making the scenery very appealing. The temperature is generally fairly warm, with temperature ranges on the main island generally between 24-30°C, with average national highs between 28-31°C, although it is humid. May to November have breezes, so this is generally the best time for tourism.

The local fish (around 42 coral islands and 67 raised coral islands, as well as some others) are unafraid of divers, although much of the coral has been bleached.

The island are interesting to geologists, as they are some of the hardest  and granitic islands in the world- 45 islands are granitic.

There are no significant oil or gas reserves, reducing future risks of pollution, meaning it will stay environmentally in tact for a while.

The culture is very diverse and interesting. They have large amounts of curries in the typical diet and large amounts of tropical fruit and fish. Shark chutney appears fairly commonly; they also have very diverse music from this. It is also fairly rare, as it is one of very few matriarchal nations. It is normally for mothers to be unwed, and fathers are legally obligated to support their children, but have full working rights, and their working is the norm.

The Seychelles had very strong advertising during 1971-76, bringing in a lot of tourists, but there are now significant environmental concerns.

Managing tourism

There is a limit on 150,000 tourists per year and 4,000 hotel beds on their 3 largest islands. They favour European tourists as they tend to pay the most on holiday.

Speargun and dynamite fishing are completely banned and the Seychelles are a world leader in eco-tourism.

 

Typhoon Haiyan

Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on 8th November 2013 with the force of a category 5 Atlantic hurricane, at a speed of 250kmh^-1. It came with a 5m storm surge and up to 290 mm of rainfall in just 12 hours. Haiyan was likely known as Yolanda. Fewer than 20 other hurricanes had reached the same strength.

Between 5 and 10 typhoons hit the Philippines every day, leading to, within normal bounds, 2% of GDP lost annually.

Top Five Natural Disasters, 2004-2012 in the Philippines Date Number Kiled
Typhoon Bopha Dec 2012 1,901
Typhoon Winnie Nov 2004 1,619
Typhoon Washi Dec 2011 1,439
Typhoon Durian Nov 2006 1,399
Leyte landslide Feb 2006 1,126

Bopha had a windspeed of 280kmh^-1 and hit the island of Mindanao. It caused over US$1 billion of damage. Yet no one remembers Bopha. This reflects how the richest countries tend to ignore the issues that prevent development in other countries once the immediate issue appears to be dealt with.

Many people made the link between Haiyan and climate change:

“I’ll leave the scientists to speak for themselves about the link between severe weather events and climate change. The evidence seems to me to be growing.”- David Cameron

Rising sea levels from melting ice caps mean that areas which are low lying or coastal are at more risk of damage from storm surges and other sea based hazards linked with the hurricane. An IPCC AR5 report judged that there would be no real increase in the number of hurricanes but the intensity of them would rise.

Date Development of Haiyan
2 Nov An area of low pressure developed South East of Micronesia
3 Nov Haiyan started to move westward, turning into a tropical depression
5 Nov Classified as a typhoon
6 Nov Joint Typhoon Warning Centre classified it as a category 5 storm
7 Nov Haiyan intensified to winds up to 314kmh^-1. Made landfall at Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
8 Nov Five more landfalls within the Philippines. Passed into the South China Sea
10 Nov Turned NW and made landfall in Vietnam as a category 1 typhoon
11 Nov Weakened to a tropical depression

Causes

To form, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones (the same thing by different names depending upon location), need warm deep water (around 27°C for 70m) and sufficient rotatory power from the Coriolis effect; the coriolis limitation means that tropical storms can rarely be formed outside of about 5-20° away from the equator. Tropical storms form around an area of low pressure- Haiyan’s sea surface pressure was as low as 895mb- where air starts to rush in in a spiralling effect.

The air then starts to rise with warm water evaporating off the warm sea, forming clouds. The clouds then start to rise. The accumulation of air at the top creates a higher section of high air pressure. Air is then blasted out at immense speeds, creating the clouds visible on satellite images.

Hurricanes maintain their full force when they are over warm water with no real wind sheer (high up winds which move the top layer of cloud away from the hurricane). In the Philippines, most of the land is made of small islands with larger sections of warm water between them, meaning that the hurricane never gets far away from warm water when over the Philippines, and thus don’t really weaken around the country.

Across the Philippines, Haiyan made 6 separate land falls. It travelled very quickly, meaning that the water in front of it was not stirred up. Stirred up water will often have cold water near the surface, but the water in front of Haiyan did not. This meant that the water entering the typhoon was very warm, so when it rose it released masses of latent heat energy, giving the typhoon enormous power.

The islands of Leyte and Cebu’s configuration channeled the storm in a particular way, funneling it straight towards the city of Tacloban; the decreasing ocean depth also increased the intensity of the storm surge.

Lowest Pressure 895 mb
Sustained wind speed 314 kmh^-1
Radius of hurricane-force winds 85 km
Peak Strength Category 5
Strength at Landfall Category 5, 314 kmh^-1
Storm Surge Height 15 m
Rainfall 400mm

There had also been an earthquake (at 7.2 on the Richter scale) recently beforehand, in October 2013, which had an impact on how effective any aid work could be.

Impacts

Haiyan affected 11 million people.

  • 6,021 were killed, although the initial estimate was 10,000
  • 10,000s of people were made homeless, and further 10,000s lost their main sources of income.
  • The Tacloban City Convention Center was being used as an evacuation centre, but became a death trap as water poured into it.
  • A 5.2 m storm surge destroyed Tacloban airport’s terminal building.
  • Many water vessels were washed ashore; in some areas 95% of fishing equipment and boats were destroyed.
  • The phone network was lost, making it hard to establish contact between victims, the authorities, and the victims’ families.
  • 1,000s of trees were destroyed; 33 million coconut palms were destroyed, destroying 15 million tons of timber.
  • Roads were undamaged, but huge piles of debris still made transportation of aid workers and supplies very slow.

The worst affected area, the Eastern Vasayas were flooded up to 1km inland.

There was no clean water, electricity or food for survivors. There was also no available fuel for vehicles, many of which were also upturned.

 

Response

Preparedness

The Philippines has many low scale hurricanes on a regular basis; thus, many people had a false sense of safety going into the disaster because they had been desensitized to the danger of it.

The government frequently produces risk maps and provides evacuation shelters for its citizens.

On November 6th, PAGASA (Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) issues a low level Public Storm Warning, but had raised this to the highest level it could within 24 hours.

The military deployed planes and helicopters in advance to areas likely t be worst-hit. Community buildings were designated as storm shelters, although there was concern that they may not resist the high wind force. Some islands, such as Tulang Diyot, were completely evacuated of its 1,000 residents, due to years of education and community preparedness.

The local mayor of Tulang Diyot won an award in 2011 for community work in the “Purok system”, where community members agree to deposit their own money into a fund for post-disaster assistance rather than waiting for government aid.

Short Term

When Haiyan made land fall, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated, allowing relief agencies to have satellite data from space agencies to help in relief and recovery after a disaster.

Journalists arrived very quickly to the area, largely consisting of storm chasers who arrived before the storm to help contribute to better models for use in predicting the effects and severity of future disasters.

The first actual aid work was done by survivors who searched the ruins for bodies and other survivors. The government was criticised for a very slow response, as locals turned to looting to acquire enough food for themselves. The UK and USofA sent supplies of diggers, and other moving equipment to help the distribution of aid. Aid supplies were often ambushed and looted. Mass graves were dug to contain the bodies before disease could break out.

Pledges of aid were made quickly but the actual carrying out of the aid schemes was severely delayed, partly because of the isolated nature of the effected islands, and the damage done to infrastructural and transport links.

Street sellers had started to set up stands again a week after the event. Fishermen salvaged water proof items to turn into impromptu boats, such as tree trunks and fridges. Broadband antennae were constructed and Micromappers.com managed to map out the worst hit areas to send workers into where they were most needed.

Long Term

Water and sanitation services were set up fairly soon afterwards. Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, representing 3,000 small businesses set up a permanent disaster committee. A month after the event, 100,000 people were still in evacuation centres, with 4 million in temporary homes. 324,00 households were given materials for emergency shelters, and began building 30,000 higher standard homes.

If material distribution had been slower, many people would have started to just rebuild with what they had, leading to more unsafe structures than what was there before the event.

Representatives of national and local governmental departments started administering aid directly, speeding up distribution and reducing bureaucracy. 50,000 homes in affected areas were given US$50 in addition to emergency supplies, overseen by the Philippines Red Cross.

People started to be paid for clearing up the mess, allowing them structure back into their lives while also helping the aid work.

There were no outbreaks of diseases, despite the large risk and the lack of initial sanitation.

More than 20% of government spending in the Philippines is on debt repayment. This crippling cost keeps much of the population in poverty and at risk of another disaster.

Xiamen Acid Rain

258 of China’s cities experience acid rains due to sulphur emissions.

Xiamen is located in the South-East part of Fujian province, which is often regarded as one of the best places to live in China. The city is experiencing continuous acid rain.

China has made some large attempts to reduce pollution levels, but these have clearly not had much of an effect on Fujian province yet.

“Official statistics show every drop of rain in Xiamen in the first half of 2010 was acidic, recording pH levels of less than 5.6 (neutral is 7),” – Zhuan Mazhan

Causes

The PRC is one of the most polluting countries in the world, along with the USofA, and air currents across the country push polluted air to the sea, and then south wards. Fujian province is at the Southern most point of the main curve of the PRC coastline, across the East China Sea from Taiwan, so it is at the point where the most polluted air converges.

Impacts

  • Acid rain is leaving buildings with yellow staining due to corrosion, particularly the colonnial age buildings which give Xiamen its unique appearance, which in turn helps to attract tourists to the island.
  • The island where Xiamen is located is being turned yellow as plants are being damaged.

Outside Xiamen, the Leshan Buddha statue of Sichuan province, has been hugely effected, and has been very badly damaged, losing its reddish colouring, due to factories built close by to it. The statue is the largest Buddha statue in the world, carved into the sacred Mount Emei, and has been there since at least 907 AD; it is a major tourist destination, particularly for Buddhist pilgrims, but is being damaged from all the acid rain and may not remain so. (This was initially confusing as almost every source mentions Leshan alongside Xiamen. I have tried to make it clear they are not the same place.)

Response

China is pursuing its promises made in 2009 to cut the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40-45% compared to 2005 levels. This has yet to be particularly effective; acid rain rates are still increasing down wind of industrial centers.

Sri Lanka Mudslides, 2016

Image result for sri lanka mudslide 2016

Mudslides hit Sri Lanka in May this year. Mudslides hit three villages in central Kegalle district. The landslide started near the town of Aranayake on the 17th May, 2016, but events leading up to it should have made the outcome predictable from the 15th onward.

Many cities were flooded with more than 100mm of rain just on the 15th of May. International airports had to be closed just from the weather, and 35 families had been displaced. Airports would remain closed over the next few days.

Causes

3 days of torrential rain destabilised slope areas, in the heaviest rainfall in 25 years. The rain started on the 14th May.

Before the extreme weather, Sri Lanka had been experiencing a drought, and power cuts as hydroelectric power stations could not function. A rare benefit of the extreme weather which triggered the event was that the dams filled up to 75% capacity, allowing a supply of electricity to rescue workers to help them work effectively.

The main landslide area was very sparsely populated by only a few minor villages. No major work had been undergone on the slopes, as evidenced by footage of the event. Instead it was caused by a sudden huge increase in slope water content combined with susceptible rock type.

Impacts

On the 18th, 134 people remained unaccounted for, and 14 bodies had been recovered, with 37 deaths total. 350,000 people were displaced. 92 deaths have now been confirmed. 220 famlies were reported missing according to the Sri Lankan Red Cross. As of May 25th, the death toll was deemed to be 101 with 100 missing people.

The slide crashed into 3 separate villages; Elangapitiya, Pallebage and Siripura, all of which were obliterated.

60 houses were buried in dirt.

The mud level was up to 30ft deep in some areas.

Many sectors of infrastructure were effected, such as planes. Many major roads were entirely flooded, including the Southern Expressway. There were heavy power failures in some towns. The government warned members of industries such as fishing to not go to work until the situation was sorted- this was of course an attempt to save lives, but there was an economic impact because of this upon fishermen.

Response

The Meteorology Department of the government issued a severe weather warning on the 14th, for 12 hours. 100mm of rainfall was expected, with wind speeds of up to 80kmh in exposed areas.

One of the initial responses to the initial weather, was closing down air traffic.  Closed airports included: Bandaranaike International Airport (flights diverted to Cochin International Airport or Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport), and Ratmalana Airport. The Sri Lanka Airforce had to be called in to rescue stranded fishermen. The Navy had to save 200 people trapped in floods on the 17th, and the mud slides started, killing 21 in just one slide. The Airforce continued rescue work throughout using military grade helicopters. 81 Navy flood relief teams were dispatched.

Rescue teams were sent out to the area specifically, so that 156 people had been rescued by the 18th May, along with 1,550 people already sheltered in seven different evacuation sites. Soldiers were active in rescue efforts for weeks afterwards. Military spokesman Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera said that the situation was being constantly assesed and that more troops would be deployed as needed, but that he doubted they would find many survivors.

More than 185,000 people who lost their homes were housed in temporary emergency shelters. The rain hindered the effectiveness of rescue efforts, in addition to causing the initial event. Many roads were underwater, and impassible, and national parks were completely closed off, and rescuers struggled to bring in their equipment. The Ceylon Electricity Board imposed emergency power cuts as a precautionary measure. In one night, the Army and Navy evacuated 26,000 people from Colombo (the capital). 1,500 armed personal were rallied,  including 71 officers.

All schools were closed on the 20th.

International efforts from other countries included:

  • Australia contributing $500,000 to UNICEF for humanitarian assistance
  • India pledging to provide assistance, and then bringing in Navy ships full of supplies.
  • Japan sent planes carrying emergency items, such as generators, blankets, and water purifiers.
  • Nepal offered $100,000
  • Pakistan gave a 30-bed field hospital
  • Singapore Red Cross donated $150,000 in relief items
  • United Nations- in collaboration with other NGOs- offered people to help administer aid
  • USofA provided $50,000 in immediate aid and a further $1 million in providing water for populations vulnerable to floods.

(Image Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36328863)