Tourists and vendors in Playas are complaining about the mounds of driftwood littering local beaches. The logs, limbs and other trash that wash ashore during rainy season and then accumulate on beaches have been collected in piles as high as three meters but have not been removed by municipal cleaning crews.
“This happens every year but this year the city just leaves it there,” says Omán Castro, local resident and operator of a beach umbrella rental concession. “The tractors come out and collect the trash in big piles but it just stays there. Who wants to come to a beach where they can’t lie on the sand, swim and get some sun.”
A beachgoer from Guayaquil, 30 kilometers to the east, said she probably won’t come back again until the debris is moved. “I can’t even put down a beach towel because of all the wood. The place is mess,” said Stefani Iglesias. “This would be great if we were beavers or squirrels, but we’re not.”
Castro has complained to municipal workers about the wood piles but they tell him that they have not received instructions to move it. “This is terrible for tourism and I can’t believe it is not a priority for the municipality to clean the beaches,” he says. “In the past, the crews load the stuff onto trucks and take it away. This year, it sits here for a month.”
According to Víctor Reyes, head of the Public Beach Cleaning Company (Amapa), officials at the Playas canton –known officially as General Villamil— tell him that there is no money to remove the wood. “They pay us to collect it in piles but tell us to wait to take it away.”
Reyes says the wood, mixed with trash, washes down the Rio Guayas into the Bay of Guayaquil during rainy season, from March to May, and then washes ashore. “It is a feature of the geography here and is a problem every year. Our crews go out at low tide with tractors and move it to higher ground so people can swim and so it doesn’t affect the fishing boats. We clean a four kilometer stretch on Playas Bay. After that, there needs to be the follow-up to move it off the beach but we need orders to do this.”
Castro says that even the swimming area is filled with driftwood this year. “People are hurting themselves on the logs and branches in the water and there are plastics and metals there too. This is terrible.”