Haiti and Dominican Republic join forces to protect border lakes
Flooded road between Dominican Republic
Port-au-Prince – Since 2004, rising water levels in Lake Azuei in Haiti and Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic have contributed to environmental deterioration along the border. Environmental, agricultural and economic impacts have been noticeable, particularly in the border area of Malpasse where a bi-national road joins the two countries; 11 communities along Lake Enriquillo have also suffered repercussions. The transnational road has been seriously damaged by overflowing water, particularly on the Haitian side as well as at the border, causing floods and the destruction of habitats. This has resulted in a critical loss of biodiversity, crops and arable land in many neighboring provinces.
These factors have had adverse effects on the communities alongside the lakes and their livelihoods at a time when they are already facing a high level of poverty and are exceedingly vulnerable to extreme climatic conditions. This situation also exacerbates the fragility of the ecosystem in the regions given that a considerable part of the population has shifted its core agricultural production activities to the mountains, with the result that insufficient attention may have been paid to planning issues and the communities’ efforts to reduce their own vulnerability. Inevitably, the water levels in Lake Enriquillo and Lake Azuei will continue to rise if the high level of rainfall of the last few years shows no sign of abating. The problem is especially critical given that these two lakes are found at the base of mountains and the only way to ensure that the level of the lakes goes down is through evaporation over the coming years.
Flooded market in the border area between
Dominican Republic and Haiti
In order to address this problem, the governments of the two countries, hand-in-hand with UNDP and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have jointly undertaken the necessary commitments and carried out lake-related research while organizing a bi-national forum on the problems facing the Azuei and Enriquillo lakes. It was at this forum that the joint Barahona Declaration was signed on August 7th, 2009 by the Ministers of the Environment as well as UNDP representatives from the two countries. Through this Declaration, the governments are committed to implementing actions to enhance the exchange of information, horizontal technical cooperation and the development of strategies among relevant institutions in both countries.
The objectives are to:
- pursue research efforts focusing on the watersheds supplying the lakes;
- to implement a wide-ranging plan for bi-national reforestation including native and endemic species in these watersheds so as to facilitate effective infiltration of rainwater;
- to diminish the rate of runoff and slow down the process of erosion;
- to carry out development projects in regard to agricultural development, fisheries and ecotourism, with the aim of generating new sources of income for lakeside communities;
- and to strengthen and build upon bi-national coordination with regard to issues pertaining to the lakes and harnessing knowledge and expertise through South-South cooperation.
The United Nations system welcomes the appeal launched by the Haitian and Dominican governments in their joint commitment to take long-term measures and has decided to support them in their efforts to launch economic and social development programmes in the communities near the lakes, and promote the restoration of environmental and ecological services in this region. In addition to UNEP and UNDP, other United Nations organizations and agencies have come on board, and technical assistance has been provided by the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery of the UNDP, and the World Food Programme (WFP) in the Dominican Republic which has mobilized resources to help the surrounding communities affected.
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