Guanacaste experiencing dramatic deterioration

Your article “It’s Official: The West Coast is a Mess” (TT, May 16) only scratches the surface of the issues now facing Guanacastecos due to the growth of tourism in Costa Rica.

The true scope of environmental degradation and the economic downturn is apparent in the dramatic degradation of the region’s quality of life.

While the northwestern province of Guanacaste is presumed to be an ideal place for baby boomers to spend their golden years, local residents are worrying over a general inflation rate of 9.2 percent a year.

This inflation, coupled with the area’s crippling pocket of poverty, forces most of its residents to concentrate on staying afloat rather than protecting the environment. Even though the unemployment rate dropped two points from 2004 to 2006, new jobs have only been created in the tourist sector, leaving the small entrepreneurial class even more vulnerable to the whims of an economy that will be bound to free-trade agreements while the working poor will become dependent on dead-end jobs.

It is imperative that the growing tourist industry in Guanacaste form strategic alliances with the still fragile local middle class.

Civic virtue depends on more than just zoning legislation. Protecting the economic base of the local community is necessary so that residents do not have to choose between protecting natural resources and compromising their quality of life.