21 Sep 2010

The Quest for a Streamlined Corsica (Part 1)

After exploring land, cultivation and property development in Corsica, we'll round off our observations with what the future - in my opinion - may hold for the island, and any potential implications.

No matter how upbeat modern Corsica may appear to the outsider/ holidaymaker/ visitor, it is nonetheless faced with a variety of challenges. As an average inhabitant, with the added insight of having travelled and spent most of my life out of the island, I have been able to identify areas for improvement.

In the same breath I do agree with any potential detractor about the fact that it is far easier to criticise from a distance than deal with the problems head-on and implement solutions. Well, I am not part of the political scene, I have no super-powers, no say in public budget spending, and I am no know-it-all guru - only a humble observer... This article is not aimed as a whinge-for-whinge's sake. Rather it should be perceived as constructive criticism and I do apologise if it is not perceived as such. I love Corsica and my intention has never been to put her down.

It's so Political: Political passion is a renegade from the past and still has a potent hold on town and village life alike. I am flabbergasted by the fact that every villager seems to know which party/ candidate their neighbours vote for. Before the election even takes place, everyone has a pretty accurate idea of who will win the election, and by how many votes. Controlled democracy with a strong clan mentality is not necessarily beneficial to village progress and forward thinking.

L'Incivisme: This could be translated as 'lack of citizenlike behaviour'. Reported countless times in the local press and decried by local mayors, this malaise has been exacerbated in recent years and manifests itself in a variety of more-or-less politically-driven actions that negatively affect a municipality (and is not solely found in Corsica of course): fly-tipping, criminal damage to public property, various acts of pollution, refusal to abide by citizen duties (ex. for a private land-owner to clear scrub off their land in direct proximity to the village so as to limit the spreading risk of wild fires, etc.). In any case, these foolish acts affect everybody down to the perpetrators who, to put it simply, saw the branch on which they are sat.

Ports, Ports and More Ports: France is the second country in the world, after the USA, for its number of marinas, from the northern tip of the English channel down the Atlantic coastline border with Spain, plus the span of its whole Med front across to Corsica. The romantic image of the picturesque fishing harbour with a handful of sailing ships seeking solace is long gone and has now been replaced by a more fitting description of floating carparks, with row after row after row of pleasure boats of all sizes, shapes and price tags. Irrevocably this concentration of boats within man-made port enclosures, added to the Summer heat and the virtually non-existant tidal movements of the Med encourage water stagnation, pollution and algae proliferation. What is left of the original beach suffers from coastal erosion (which, I admit, is not solely limited to the Med regions).

As a fitting illustration of this, the once-beautiful Macinaggio sandy beach (pictured below) is now a narrow strip of shoreline clogged up with banquettes de posidonie (heaps of algae), all year round. The configuration of the port prevents the algae from shifting by itself with the winter storms like this would have occurred before the port was extended. Meanwhile sand and pebble banks have been displaced by the changed underwater currents and by further human action (diggers scraping the algae off the beach in late Spring and in good faith, so as to make it 'look more attractive' although funnily enough the algae happens to buffer the beach against further erosion).

However despite the threat of coastal erosion and sea pollution, port expansion is set to carry on across the island, with already 35 million Euros in the pipeline for the proposed Carbonite Port just south of Bastia to welcome more ferryboats from the continent and cruise ships. Add to this a further 2 million Euros for the proposed modernisation of the recently-built Toga Port, just north of Bastia, and you get a better grasp of the financial stakes. (to be continued)

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