Environmental Destruction, Chaos Bleeding Across Haitian Border

In an article yesterday, the New York Times addresses the ways in which worsening environmental conditions in Haiti are exacerbating tensions along its border with the Dominican Republic. The article refers to the murder of four Haitians in October [see our post at 4 Haitians murdered near the border, arrest warrants issued] as clear indication of these growing tensions. Here is an excerpt, with the link ot the full article below.

Meanwhile, as the illegal charcoal trade exacerbates tensions between the two countries, the ecological damage done to Haiti’s landscape threatens to pull the neighbors further apart in another unexpected way.

Rapid erosion caused by deforestation is spilling large quantities of silt into Lac Azuei, raising lake levels and flooding the road connecting Port-au-Prince to Malpasse. The original road already lies 2 feet below the water line, but the government has been piling sand on top of it to keep the critical passage open. The lake is rising still.

The government is considering reforesting the hillsides to halt the erosion and dredging the lake and a drainage canal, but thus far, its best hope for a permanent solution is a plan to build a new road on the north side of the lake. That project would cost at least $40 million, and there is no source of funding yet.

But there are growing signs of hope in Haiti. The population seems more receptive than ever before to messages promoting environmental protection, aid workers and U.N. officials say. Storm barriers are springing up to protect urban centers from deadly flash floods, and community groups are experimenting with alternative sources of fuel.

Safety and security seem to be improving, as well, encouraging Haitians to venture out more and tying the nation more closely together. That security is also giving space for the government and nonprofits to focus on solutions to the country’s numerous environmental challenges.

But Ron Daniels, founder of the New York-based Haiti Support Project, warns that the nation’s stability is still fragile. U.N. peacekeepers and aid workers can only do so much, and the country’s political leaders have yet to end their zero-sum game for dominance and come together, he said.

“Given the right political scenario — I mean by that the political class deciding that it’s in its self-interest to embrace the masses of the people and to have progressive policies and so forth — then this country is going to emerge as a dominant force, at some point, in the Caribbean,” Daniels said.

For the article go to http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/12/14/14greenwire-environmental-destruction-chaos-bleeding-acros-35779.html

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