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In Costa Rica, 'raw sewage everywhere'


The US Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica, took it upon itself to write a series of diplomatic cable about why the nation “is not paradise,” to counter the tourism image.

“Travel brochures do not tell the entire story,” one cable released today says. The message line of the cable reads: “COSTA RICA NOT PARADISE-RAW SEWAGE EVERYWHERE”.

It goes on to describe Costa Rica as practically awash in sewage due to lack of adequate wastewater treatment facilities. Only 2.6 percent of human waste is treated, and rivers are like open drainage ditches.

“Nationwide, Costa Rica currently treats only 2.6% of human waste generated, ranking Costa Rica amongst the five worst countries in Latin America. And the country is falling backward,” the cable says in part.

It goes on: “While famous for its investment in "green" issues such as national parks and biodiversity protection, Costa Rica does not walk the talk when it comes to "brown" environmental issues such as sewage treatment.  For a tourism-dependent country that relies upon its reputation as an environmental paradise and prime ecotourism destination, the nation's use of its rivers in lieu of a modern sanitation system, as the conduit for dumping raw untreated waste onto its most convenient beaches and important fishing areas is a shocking revelation.”

Of course, this kind of cable may infuriate Costa Ricans but if it all is true this is useful information to know, especially if one is a U.S. retiree thinking of going there to live.


If you have an interest in Costa Rica and U.S. policy there, check out all the cables released today. There are lots and I don't have time to go through them as I'm in El Salvador preparing for the Obama visit tomorrow.



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- Aurora

Hello Tee,

I am sure that Costa Rica has developed its infrastructure at the same or at a better pace than most other countries which most Ticos and Ticas would say so as well.

Costa Rica is well ahead of most of the other countries in Central America yet there really is no excuse for the way the sewage is allowed to be the issue it is. Please refrain from comparing Costa Rica's (which is a country) or even Jaco to (the cities) like New York or Toronto. There is absolutely no comparison of downtown San Jose to New York or (especially) Toronto. You comments about Toronto are way off in this regard. Toronto's downtown is one of the cleanest city core's in the world.

Costa Rica is indeed beautiful however there are way too many locals who have simply been brought up to not care enough about what a beautiful natural country they have. A real shame. They are trying on several levels and have indeed made great progress since the last major time they nearly destroyed the tourist industry with those car rental scams which was very sad and affected tourism for years as I am sure you would/may know.

Lots of us love C.R. but please do not write things like you have which will only encourage those who have the power to imagine they can leave the sewage issue, as it is (being improved very slowly and not at all in plenty of places).



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This country has developed its infrastructure sometimes not quite at the same pace as expansion in other sectors. Sewage disposal is an issue as in many developed nations, where walking down the street yields the same reactions whether in New York, Toronto or in Jaco. This is not a reason not to view Costa Rica in toto, and can be viewed as a misleading statistic taken out of context. Best suggestion is to come see for yourself, and look at the relative health care and disease frequency of residents of this environmentally conscious nation.

- Tee

Tee is the founder and senior editor of Costa Rica CLOSEUP a Travel Guide to Costa Rica with Events, Articles and Information for everyone traveling, retiring and/or purchasing real estate in Costa Rica. Please visit www.costaricacloseup.com for more information.

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This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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