Waste from a Meliá Hotel Contaminates the Beaches and Mangroves of Trinidad, Cuba

 The spill has also caused damage to crayfish, crabs, fish and waterfowl in the area.

The photographs that accompany the article show the measure of the damage: it is not only garbage and other waste, but toxic material / Radio Sancti Spíritus

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, May 25, 2024 — Meliá Trinidad Peninsula, the hotel colossus that accounted for 60% of the construction budget for 2023 in Sancti Spíritus, has caused a significant deterioration of the province’s mangroves in just six months of activity. In a warning call published by the local radio station, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment denounced the “dumping of waste” from the hotel into sensitive ecosystems on the southern coast of Sancti Spíritus.

The photographs that accompany the report give the measure of the damage. It is not only garbage and other waste, but also toxic material that produces a “pestilence of contaminated water,” especially on the stretch of road that connects the town of Casilda with the southern beaches. The cause of the spill appears to be – according to ministry specialists – an obstruction in the hotel’s waste processing system.

In addition to the mangrove ecosystem in the Las Piñas area, the first affected have been Cuban “drivers and vacationers,” who cannot afford to stay at the Meliá and who, traditionally, have swam on those beaches. The Ministry says it has forwarded its complaint to the provincial delegation of Hydraulic Resources, in charge of managing the hotel’s drainage. From one official source to another, there has been no solution.

Residents in the area have expressed concern about the pestilence and have complained to the official media

“So far, the waste spill that caused damage to the mangrove ecosystem and its biodiversity has not been resolved: crabs, crayfish, fish and aquatic birds are victims of the contamination,” they lament.

Residents in the area have expressed their concern about the pestilence and have complained to the official media, a fact that – the Ministry considers – is the only “positive edge” it sees in the matter. “This confirms the knowledge acquired by citizens about the care and conservation of the environment,” they argue.

The Cuban Government, Radio Sancti Spíritus points out, has the responsibility of resolving the incident caused by the Spanish hotel company. There is, they emphasize, the plan known as Tarea Vida (Life Task) which should, by a law approved by the Council of Ministers in 2017, penalize all “negative actions of the human species against nature.”

Distancing itself from the crisis, Meliá has not commented so far on the damage caused to the Sancti Spíritus coast. Inaugurated by the Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, as a “tribute” to Trinidad for its 510 years, the Meliá Trinidad is one of the jewels in the crown of the Spanish hotel industry in Cuba. The not very optimistic data on the current tourism numbers for the Island did not prevent the hotel company managers from betting on strengthening their position on the Island.

Last December, when the hotel began to offer its services, Francisco Albertí – the financial guru of Meliá and other companies with interests on the Island – asked the Cuban authorities to give more opportunities to European companies, to have a say in the “recovery” of tourism” as “great actors.”

Sancti Spíritus has been raising the alarm for months about the general environmental deterioration of the province

The business would be great for Havana, Albertí argued, because along with the money from the hotels would come a “private investment in all the sectors that suffer: energy, supplies, food, agriculture or livestock.” “Cuba is at a time when important decisions have to be made at the tourism and country level” if it wants to “raise its head,” Albertí added.

Sancti Spíritus, for its part, has been sounding the alarm for months about the general environmental deterioration suffered by the province. The most serious case is that of the Zaza dam, the largest on the Island, which is at 13% of its capacity, according to Cubadebate. In the report that the state media dedicated to the situation of the dam there were also photos that attested to the crisis that the reservoir is going through, and not only due to the lack of water.

Several Acopio trucks open their doors, on the edge of the dam, so that the fishermen – who have launched a frantic fishing operation before Zaza completely dries up – can sell them all the fish they can catch. According to the testimonies collected by Cubadebate, it was not even necessary to cast the nets anymore. The shallow depth of the water, and the fact that there are only a few streams and areas with living beings, have made it possible to “catch the fish with your hands.”

Zaza is “dying,” lament the workers and families who depend on the reservoir for their livelihood. It is a matter of time before, there too, life underwater is exterminated, and what was once one of the cleanest provinces on the Island ends up weighed down by pollution.


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