Prince Charles to Help Build Housing in Galapagos
September 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
Prince Charles is to help build a controversial 1,000-strong housing development on the Galapagos Islands. He has been called in by conservationists alarmed that plans to create a ‘mini-city’ could seriously harm one of the world’s most precious eco-systems, which inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution.
As a result his Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment will next month set up an office on one of the remote islands 600 miles off Ecuador in the Pacific. It will work with the people of a town on Santa Cruz island, Puerto Ayora, to create a ‘harmonious’ residential development that is ‘sympathetic’ to the local environment.
Discovered in the 16th century, the Galapagos Islands found worldwide fame after Charles Darwin studied them during his voyage on The Beagle in the 1830s and used them to form his theory of evolution by natural selection.
Consisting of 13 main islands – five of which are inhabited by a total of 23,000 people – and several smaller ones, they are renowned for their extraordinarily diverse flora and fauna, including sea turtles, flamingos and land iguanas. The most famous of the islands’ inhabitants are, of course, the giant tortoises, including local ‘celebrity’ Lonesome George, now about 100 years old and the last of his Pinta island species
Leading conservationists have called for a curb on tourism on the Galapagos Islands – declared the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 – to prevent construction and pollution destroying their beauty for ever. The Prince of Wales visited the Galapagos Islands in March 2009 during his tour of South America and said: ‘There is a huge challenge – how do you manage tourism and the local economy and more people who want to come and live here and work here? ‘Yet [there is] the absolutely crucial importance of preserving the biodiversity because it is so unique. This is the great dilemma, isn’t it, that confronts all of us all round the world, not just here?
Although development on the island is restricted to just 3 per cent of the total land, the local government has decided to construct more than 1,000 homes at El Mirador, effectively doubling the population of Puerto Ayora, already the archipelago’s largest town.
The Prince’s Foundation held a series of community workshops this summer and will now formally advise local officials on how to create more housing and tourism accommodation while retaining the islands’ delicate eco-system. The foundation’s design for the houses includes solar panels; large porches to cool air and dispense with the need for air-conditioning; cisterns to collect rain for re-use; and green sewage systems.
Hank Dittmar, the foundation’s chief executive, said: ‘Given the decision of the Galapagos government to approve development, the Prince’s Foundation is looking forward to showing that people and nature can co-exist in a harmonious balance. ‘If we’re to avoid damage to the incredibly important environment and ecosystems of the Galapagos, we need to plan growth so as it makes the place more sustainable into the future – not less.’
Toni Dalton, of the Galapagos Conservation Trust, warned that development was a ‘real threat’ but said she was ‘delighted’ the Prince’s Foundation was helping.