By and large, the island’s good reputation is justified. But there is room for improvement. When I first started walking around the island’s countryside, many years ago, I was struck by two things. First, the amount of rubbish that was piled up here and there, although it was often hidden under bushes and undergrowth, and so not visible at first sight. Second, the surprising amount of herbicide that was used around the olive groves and vineyards.
Two types of rubbish were evident, as everywhere in the supposedly civilized world: litter and rubble, the former spread by careless or uncaring individuals, the latter by irresponsible building firms.
I am told that before there was organized rubbish collection across the island, it was the norm for household rubbish to be thrown into whatever space happened to be convenient, whether a neighbour’s dry well or some nearby ruined building. Now there are rubbish containers in every settlement, this problem has been lessened, although it is still in evidence here and there among islanders too set in their ways to change their habits.
The use of pesticides surprised me as everyone I knew insisted that they farmed their land organically. It turned out not all of them were telling the truth. I have had interesting discussions with pesticide users over the years. Their reasoning ranges from “Well, it’s not really a poison” to “OK, it is a poison, but it’s the mildest possible and it’s perfectly safe” to “I have to use chemicals because it’s easiest and I don’t have time to do otherwise”. But the facts are that Hvar’s fields, notably the Stari Grad Plain, were cultivated naturally very successfully for centuries; the chemical pollution is damaging the soil, underground waters and the whole eco-structure of the island; and there is apparently a relatively high incidence of illnesses which might be attributable to pesticide use.
Of course, many people do farm their land without using pesticides. I hear that recently the dangers of pesticide use have been publicized on television. More people are turning to organic crop production, which is encouraging others to consider it. The wild flowers which brighten Hvar's countryside throughout the year are not only brilliantly beautiful, but essential to the island's ecology.
Hvar Island has stunning natural beauty and deserves to be clean. Any kind of pollution is unacceptable and harmful in all kinds of ways. ECO HVAR for the environment was conceived to help Hvar realize its potential as the cleanest island on the Adriatic.
© Vivian Grisogono 2013