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.

 

Campania Mudslides, Italy – 1998

On the 5th May 1998, a mudslide hit Campania in Southern Italy.

The region was very hard hit by the area, and many individual towns were at high risk; Sarno and Quindici being two of the most effected. The area has the highest mudslide rate in Italy, with more than 631 since 1918. One such earthquake was in 1980, when nearly 3,000 people in Campania were killed in a single event. 65% of Italy in deemed at risk from landslides.

There were at least 17 slides during the event.

Causes

”Everything is to blame — It’s nature, it’s the authorities, and it’s also us, the citizens”–  Francesco Fligente, a local bus driver. ‘The mountain has been burned systematically” –Andrea Giordani, land surveyor. “[The mudslide was] not a natural calamity but a disaster caused by decades of ransacking the land and sprawling construction.” – WWF

The town had been hit by torrential rains beforehand, which remained ongoing during rescue attempts. The area is made of sedimentary rocks, which are predicted to eventually crumble into the nearby Tyrrheanian Sea, as the soil is very fragile and prone to erosion. This was not helped by local deforestation and a habit of burning patches of ground to achieve this, or by structural work that weakened slope integrity further. Removal of chestnut trees has an especially large effect, as these trees’ large root systems hold soil very firmly together.

The government received criticism for not declaring a state of emergency in the region on the 3rd, and not giving evacuation notice, when geologists first came to believe that slides were about to occur.

Campania is a centre for illegal housing projects, with 20% of Italy’s illegal construction, according to environmental watchdogs. Farmers regularly burned down local plantlife to make room for crops and livestock. Environmental law was regularly not enforced, or even just entirely ignored. Regional officials blamed central government for not giving enough funding to properly maintain the laws.  Meanwhile, the central government blamed the Mafia for the apathy towards environmental laws, and that they were benefiting from the poor regulations.

Geologists were regularly warning about the dangers of building while ignoring regulations in a risk prone zone.

Many homes in the area were built in very land-slide-prone sites, or too close to rivers. 24% of the area is deemed “at risk” land.

Many of the demolished buildings were poorly built out of concrete, and did not have proper foundations.

Impacts

The first news of the start of the event was the Sarno mayor calling up Civil Protection Authorities asking for help to cope with a torrent of debris approaching the city.

At least 147 people died, with about 100 of them from  just the town of Sarno. 1,000 people were left homeless. More than a dozen of the deaths were children. About 5,000 people lived in Sarno. Mud deposits were up to 13 feet deep. The Sarno hospital- Villa Marta- was entirely decimated, with 6 members of hospital staff killed. Workers carried 60 patients outside, and had they not, many more would have died; building of a new hospital outside the worst risk zone had been planned, but government budgeting to allow EU entry slowed this down- the unfinished new hospital was completely undamaged.

A whole public school was also destroyed, trapping many teachers and pupils inside. Many other buildings were also destroyed. Rivers became clogged up with mud up to 2m deep, and 1,5000 people lost all their posessions.

Whole swaths of greenery on the mountain slopes were flattened.

The  most effeceted towns were: Irpine, Salernitano, Sarno, Quindici. Episcopio, Taurano and Bracigliano, but over 230 were impacted.

The most dangerous areas were inhabited by the poorest civilians, who are the most hard hit, as they cannot pay effectively for future accomodation or relocation.

Response

Rescuers from Civil Protection arrived only a few hours after the initial plea was given, at night time. This timing hindered rescue work, as it was too dark to start any serious rescue work and helicopters to help would be unsafe to pilot. The government vastly underestimated the event’s scale, too, and initially only sent a few earth-moving vehicles, that became stuck themselves. By the 6th, volunteers had resorted to digging with their bare hands.

A funeral was held on the 11th May 1998 for the dead in a football field locally, with rescue workers contributing to the ceremony.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi pledged $30 million in relief and reconstruction on the Friday, 4 days after the event.Previous aid efforts had been largely cut down from what was pledged however, due to concerns that over spending would prevent their entry into the European Union. The government even cut funding to the Centre of Geological Studies, so that thousands of geology graduates and scientists were unemployed.

President Scalfaro said that they should focus on reconstruction and aid efforts before trying to find a guilty party. International trips by government officials were cut short in order to stand with the Italian populus and help organise repairations.

4,000 firefighters, troops, forest rangers and medical workers including 80 US marines based in Naples aided the rescues. 5 schools were converted into emergency shelters. Just one of these schools, Edmonde de Amiciis Elementary School housed 260 survivors.

Nepal Earthquake

Fact File

  • The main earthquake scored a magnitude of 7.8, and hit on April 25th, 2015, between Kathmandu and Pokhara
  • There was a major aftershock on 12th May 2015, of magnitude 7.3
  • It was the worst earthquake to hit in 80 years

Causes

Natural

  • The Himalayas are caused when the northern part of then tectonic plate containing India and Australia pushes up towards the Eurasian plate. Both plates are continental, so relatively light- the crusts both push upwards when they collide, causing huge mountains to form as the Himalayas. Because these rocks started as sedimentary rocks from the sea floor, before the continents collided, seashells can be found in rock faces along the Himalayas
  • Kathmandu is located on soft rock, which, when shaken undergoes “liquefaction”- where solid rock effectively becomes a liquid under stress. This undermined building foundations, causing huge property damage
  • Weak rocks and steep slopes combined to make the aid operations very difficult in the area.

Human

  • Bureaucracy stopped a lot of aid progress, hindering recovery efforts and fostering mistrust between locals and aid organisations
  • Political haggling has effectively stopped aid efforts
  • Corruption among aid workers, particularly Indian aid workers, led to Nepalese blockades in progress, which, according to the Nepalese government, are more damaging than the earthquake itself, economically. Blockades have stopped the flow of construction materials, greatly increasing the costs of rebuilding.
  • Nepal is known as a corrupted country, slowing down aid work and reducing the ability of redevelopment
  • As the earthquake started during the working day, many farm workers were out in their fields, which helped protect them from injuries from falling masonry

Impacts

Short Term

  • Almost 9,000 people were killed, between Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Tibet. Within Tibet, foreign nationals of various countries including Australia, China, India and the USA were killed.
  • People panicked upon seeing the damage and were too scared to return home- this had psychological effects on many individuals, but likely probably helped some people’s safety. As Nepal is hit by frequent tremors, many people are still terrified by small ground movements on a regular basis
  • Dubar Square, a noted UNESCO site was utterly flattened by the shaking
  • 600,000 homes were destroyed
  • 21,000 people were injured
  • The earthquake damaged water supplies from springs down to people causing huge clean water shortages.
  • In the Langtang valley, entire villages were wiped out by avalanches.
  • Many Tibeto-Burman villages were destroyed, as the ethnic group like to settle high up on rocky slopes, making them especially susceptible to land slides and avalanches.
  • Avalanches caused by tremors on mount Everest killed 18 people, making it the day with the highest fatalities on Everest. At least 60 people were injured, and some had to be taken out by rescue helicopters.
  • 4 million people are still living in temporary shelters

Middle Term

  • Many people have taken out large loans to help fund house rebuilding, plunging them into debt.
  • Violent crime rates, particularly against women, greatly increased.
  • Women struggled to get aid, leading to even greater gender disparity within the region
  • People no longer had access to decent sanitation, or to toilets, so there were fears of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera

Responses

Short Term

  • Aid agencies quickly started distributing out survival items like food, bed sheets and crude shelter-making materials (like iron sheets) to help protect people.
  • Airports were reopened as soon as they were safe. That said, some had to be reclosed very quickly afterwards due to aftershocks. During these, people were moved out of the building and onto the runway temporarily, to minimise the risks of injury due to damaged building work.

Middle Term

  • Very few of the roughly 800,000 flattened buildings have been rebuilt.
  • Pledges of US$3×10^9 were made, but 3.5 million Nepalese people have still yet to receive more than very basic aid.
  • The government is starting to give out about 200,000 rupees to the worst effected homes- but only 660 families have received anything so far out of 100,000 eligible, and that is no where near enough to build up new houses or recover losses to the family. Just buying sand for a single room can cost 60,000 rupees.
  • To receive this money, 150,000 of the rupees must be spent on home-building, using a 7 step plan to build earthquake-proof homes. In theory, this would greatly reduce the impac of future earthquakes. In practice, each of the 7 steps is very expensive to locals, who have no means to pay for all of it. If they flout the building rules, they get no compensation.
  • Only about 30% of foreign aid goes to beneficiaries; meanwhile, over 40% is just in admin, breeding discontent between locals who view them as corrupt and the aid companies, slowing down the rebuilding. In Nepal, 43% of the aid money goes to the government. Corruption watchdogs have said that local officials may siphon off even more money

Evaluation of Responses

International aid have been trying to help the area, and on a small scale, they have worked relatively well. Where they can work without funding, such as by building small evacuation camp latrines out of bamboo and rock, they are very effective. However, corruption, and growing irritation at the corrupted system has lead to complications and delays to the extent where very little has really been achieved by aid workers, despite their best efforts.

Many locals would probably be fine helping themselves to build housing, as many people are using loaned money to build their homes faster than they could on the government money, if the supply were supported, instead of being crippled by protest groups.

It’s understandable why they are protesting- at a time when their country needs all the help it can sensibly receive, the government has been redirecting funding away- but their protests merely exacerbate the issues they are complaining about, at least from an outside perspective. It’s unlikely they will change anything with corruption soon.

References

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36089960

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/apr/25/earthquake-survivors-stranded-nepal-aid-bureaucracy

https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2016/jul/18/nepal-earthquake-emergency-sanitation-red-cross