Our friend Sophie Maríñez has just shared with us this report by Alicia Ortega on La Barquita housing project in the Dominican Republic. This new housing facility is being built to relocate families living on the shores of the Ozama River (in eastern Santo Domingo), who are often affected by floods, cyclones, storms, mudslides, and other natural incidents.
As Ortega reports, it has been five decades since the state conceived its first plans to keep the banks of the Ozama River uninhabited; but the number of people living in the area has grown considerably. The government project currently under construction seems to be the answer to the prayers of a people living in vulnerable conditions.
This project involves more than building homes that will change the lives of 1,500 impoverished families; it also includes the community’s direct participation in meetings where they explain their needs and share ideas for the region’s improvement. Therefore, the construction project will take into account the views of the beneficiaries, thus strengthening a sense of community agency through which its members will be involved every step of the way. This pilot project also includes an educational aspect that will prepare the community for living in an apartment building and for managing sustainable and ecologically-sound practices. Families that live further away from the high impact zones will receive home improvements, including replacement of mud floors and strong roofs.
The facilitators are also planning to provide regular garbage pickup in order to control pollution. Jhael Isa explains that there is also a strong need for transportation along the river. To this end, the urban planners are designing a ferry service (Aquabus) starting at the colonial center of Santo Domingo, with eight stations along the Ozama River, ending in La Barquita and Cachón de la Rubia. This is the first project to harness the river’s resources to improve life along its shores.
Plans for La Nueva Barquita community include a clinic, a school, a child care center, two churches, recreation areas, a community center, landscaping, and streets.
In the link below, you will find four video reports (each one approximately 15 minutes in duration) about La Barquita. You will see interviews with several people involved in the process, including residents of La Barquita and the civil engineer responsible for project implementation, Fabien Maríñez (Sophie’s brother), who underlines that this project is unique in the Dominican Republic.