Caring for Hvar's Environment

Published in Environment

What inspired ECO HVAR for the environment

 

The Island of Hvar is clean, relative to other places. Visitors always appreciate that, and many comment on it, although it is no more than they expect. After all, Hvar’s success as a tourist destination has depended on its reputation for clean land, sea and air.

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.

 

Why do people, especially the young who are going to inherit this environment, drop litter? Take cigarette butts, for example. Most smokers are in the habit of discarding their fag-ends on the ground. Perhaps the thinking is that they are only small, so they don’t matter; or they will biodegrade; and/or they will do no harm. Many smokers also discard their cigarette packets on the ground, to join the more general litter created by the packaging from sweets, snack foods and drinks. The question of why this is happening becomes more complex when the littering is done by people, especially youngsters, right next to a rubbish bin.

 

When I lived in London, I routinely picked up litter as I walked my dogs through the local parks. I was sometimes thanked by people who witnessed this, especially by the park attendants. Here I do the same. I am not the only person to clear up rubbish from the environment. People who understand how important cleanliness is to Hvar’s future as a tourist destination are pleased and grateful. In recent years there has been an increase in actions to clean up beaches, paths and public places. The next major breakthrough will be to persuade people not to drop litter in the first place.

 

 

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

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