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The Environment That Man Destroys
Dominican Republic, 5/30/2015

In different parts of the hills and mountains of the Dominican-Haitian border it is common to see plumes of smoke reveal the use of land for conducting uncontrolled cross-border coal trade.

The removal of forest land on the border is a result of agreements between Dominican owners and Haitian workers, for the manufacture of coal or the cultivation of land for lease. When the land is already worn, is temporarily abandoned until it can be use again.   

The report published in 2013 "Haiti-Dominican Republic: Environmental Challenges in the Border Zone" by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicates that the cutting and burn agriculture resulted in a record of 72 forest fires in 2011 and 32 during the first four months of 2012, if one takes into account only the Elias Piña province.

The most affected areas by the fires are the Central Mountain Range, in the Sierra de Bahoruco, and adjacent protected areas during the dry season.
Juan Manuel Cordero, President of the Ecological Society of Dajabón, attributed the burning to people looking to do business with the extracted resinous pinewood of the forests, for the purposes of burning coal or wood to sell.

Approximately 75% of the Haitian population uses charcoal for cooking, mainly in the capital, Port au Prince. A portion of this material is produced illegally on the Dominican side of the border, and the UNEP report estimates that the amount generated in the country to neighboring consumption is about 50 thousand tons per year, constituting a valued trading at US $300 per ton. As explained by a staffer of the Land Border Security (Cesfront), they cut wood on the Dominican side, in Pedernales, and gradually pass it in the night to Haitian territory, where the military has no jurisdiction. 

The use of wood contributes to deforestation. A study completed in 2013 by the Land Border Security (Cesfront) found that 98% of 2,420 Haitian families are settled illegally in the boundary edge 15 kilometers corresponding to the Dominican Republic; in the five provinces bordering Haiti. 89% of households cook with firewood or coal.

This has brought that water resources diminish. UNEP notes that the Elías Piña region is experiencing a decrease in rainfall and a lack of river water, contributing in part to the migration of Dominicans.

Water scarcity is attributed to land degradation, which leads to lower fluid retention, and decreased precipitation.
UNEP warns that pollutants flowing from the border area to the ocean damage the reproductive capacity of shellfish and fish, reducing the supply of seafood on the island.

In turn, UNEP highlights that by 2013 the forest area of the Dominican Republic was estimated at about 40% of the land area, compared with 12% in the 80s, although coverage has grown since then as a result of reforestation, and in the border region has been slower.

One of the projects to repair the damages is Frontera Verde, started in 2010 with 40 bi-national reforestation brigades along the entire border. Heads of families on both sides of the island worked to rescue their territories working for US $8 per day.


Topic(s):    Forest resources