Eco-Airport for Galápagos Islands
Listed as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1985, the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador are among the country’s most popular tourist attractions, particularly for nature lovers who are drawn by the archipelago’s fascinating flora and fauna. It was Charles Darwin who drew the world’s attention to the Galápagos, with the endemic species on the islands providing the basis for his Theory of Evolution and his book The Origin of Species – and the world’s fascination with the Galápagos has certainly not faded over the years. In 2012 more than 180,000 people visited these legendary islands, and now visitors to the islands will be able to take eco-tourism to a new level with the completion of the ecological airport on Baltra Island – the inauguration of which is planned for early March 2013.
Following environmental impact studies and the formulation of an environmental management plan by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment and the National Park Service, construction of the airport was undertaken by the Argentinian company Corporation America. By December 15, 2012, the transition from the current airport terminal on Baltra Island to the new ecologically-friendly terminal began. Aeropuertos Ecológicos Galápagos (Ecogal) has been contracted to manage the terminal for fifteen years.
The new terminal was designed to use natural breezes and natural light to cool and illuminate the building which covers 64,583 square feet, being up to three times larger than the old air terminal. Paint, solvents and other coating materials used have very low emissions of fumes, referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds, thereby limiting potentially harmful vapors from being released into the environment. Using materials from the demolition of the previous terminal, 365 solar panels will provide up to fifty percent of the energy required by the new terminal. The aim is to utilize 100 percent renewable energy by the end of 2013, with the balance of energy requirements being provided by wind-power.
A desalination plant located at the Caleta Aeolin cove will convert seawater to potable water for the airport’s needs, while sewerage and wastewater will be treated with the latest technology to remove all impurities before releasing it back into the ocean. Once the airport has been inaugurated and is fully functional, Ecogal will register the airport’s carbon footprint, which will no doubt be a selling point with eco-conscious tourists visiting Ecuador’s Galápagos islands.