Punta Cana Foundation vice president Jake Kheel, whose film “Muerte por mil cortes” (Death by a thousand cuts) documented the collapse and silent devastation of Dominicans forests, on Wednesday called on the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAMDR) and the government to brake the large-scale coal industry being developed in country, sometimes with Environment officials’ consent.
The prominent environmentalist, whose documentary on the charcoal trade shows how it consumes national forests, cited the case of Sierra de Bahoruco, near Enriquillo lake (west), where he says the slash-and-burn industry supplies a demand that in a smaller scale supplies the Haitian market, where as much as 80% of the population uses it to cook.
He spoke while showing a part of the film where some buyers in Haiti acknowledge they cannot use propane gas because it’s too expensive, and prefer the cheaper charcoal.
The industry also supplies the US market, where Kheel says the Dominican Republic competes in quantity with charcoal which that country imports from Brazil and other parts of South America. “Behind them are not only Haitian laborers, but Dominicans who participate who are “big shots of the business.”
“Worst of all is that this activity occurs with the Environment Ministry’s consent,” he said, and cites the case of a charcoal exporter who last year had a permit to cut 257,000 trees per year. At that time, at least five businesses had permits to export charcoal.
Kheel noted that charcoal trafficking is illegal in the country and that a permit for cut trees cannot make it legal. He said permits to cut trees must be banned unless they are part of a management plan.
“The film aims to draw attention to the issue, and the importance of forests to deal with climate change. It also seeks to influence policies to curb the morass and the amnesia which lets forest collapse in silence,” Kheel said in the keynote speech to the AMCHAMRD’s monthly luncheon.