Expanding Human Settlements
The population of Galapagos has roughly doubled in the last 10 years, making it the fastest growing part of Ecuador. Uncontrolled and illegal immigration is the main reason for the growth. Despite significant improvements in the immigration policies and actual deportations of illegal immigrants, Galapagos is still stuck with thousands of unlawful inhabitants. To house the people there is a constant expansion, taking place throughout every populated area.
In 2009, during the 50-year anniversary of the Galapagos National Park, the Park Service traded an area just outside the biggest town, Puerto Ayora, with the city council for an area of farmland of equal size. At first sight this was a good deal as
the Park area that was given up, from an ecological point of view, is of lesser quality than the farmland. However, the newly-acquired population area is forming a bridge between the existing coastal town and several smaller towns further inland and could serve as a stepping-stone for future expansions. Since Puerto Ayora is already in severe environmental difficulty, adding an extra neighborhood will only push it further into crisis.
The speed in which these constructions take place is so high that any visitor returning to Galapagos after only 5 years will have difficulty recognizing the place. At the present rate of growth Galapagos will have a population of one million people by the year 2058. Obviously this is far more than the islands can sustain as the limits are already reached. Further expansion will continue to lead to increasing habitat destruction and will eventually result in the disappearance of the unique life that drew people here in the first place. Unless better controlled, expanding human settlements will turn the Galapagos into nothing but a group of bare rocks in the Pacific.