When it’s really really sunny and in the middle of a prolonged period of waves and wind I must say it’s hard to get the community’s and the people’s attention talking about such seemingly unimportant and boring things, things like the potential for devastating floods caused by deforestation, beach erosion and the potential of new flood paths caused by unhindered sand extraction from rivers, unscrupulous development and last but not least charcoal production.
Now that this flooding of biblical proportions has become a national problem I will take advantage of your seemingly weather induced attention span and give you a little briefing on what the direct causes are of the recent catastrophic floods on the North Coast, it’s was very predictable and was only a matter of time.
It’s been raining here on the North Coast, raining a lot in fact but it has not been anything way above normal, it rains like this every few years and there are floods but there have never been floods of such catastrophic proportions as the ones happening now, ever.
The cause of this unprecedented flooding is actually not the rain but deforestation, as you may or may not know a systematic destruction of pristine rain forests is going on in all areas of the North Coast and all over the country, unfortunately we have now finally reached the tipping point, we are now at a level of deforestation that will result in serious flooding each time there is an above average amount of rainfall, it will now take far less rain to saturate the ground and the lack of trees will ensure that almost all of the water runs directly into rivers guaranteeing flash floods and catastrophic damages every year. The authorities would like to have the people think its all because of the rain, but its not, not at all.
“Just like the water rolls off the duck’s back, so to will the water roll off the treeless hills and into the sand less rivers creating floods of ever growing proportions”
We have finally broken the fragile equilibrium between natural drainage (forests) and runoff (no trees no drainage), I say we because we are all responsible, more on that in a minute.
The way a forest prevents flooding is mostly due to the fact that trees have roots, roots that perforate the ground and even crack open limestone and bedrock allowing water to flow into the ground filling the aquifer, this insures that before water runs off the surface a large amount is first captured into the ground and it takes a lot more rain to saturate the ground were there is a forrest present.
Without trees water no longer sinks into the ground but rather rolls off the surface, making things even worse on the North Coast there is a lot of clay, clay is impermeable to water and acts like a sealant and will not allow the ground to absorb water, so when it rains all the water flows downhill and into the streams and rivers which then overflow.
This is no longer a “campo” or small town issue, it is now a country wide issue, an everyone issue, rich, poor Dominican or foreign we will all be affected and from now on large cities such as but not limited to; Puerto Plata, Moca and Santiago are in the crosshairs and will be directly affected by catastrophic floods brought on as a direct result of unhindered deforestation.
Sabaneta, Cabarete, Gaspar Hernandez and Luperon (to name just 4) were all badly hit as well, from now on any area in the path of rivers will fall victim to catastrophic flooding, count on it.
If you think the recent floods are a freak event and will not happen again, your deathly wrong, henceforth anytime an above average amount of rain falls this will happen every time, it has not before because that fragile equilibrium between natural drainage and run off had not yet reached the tipping point, it did now and the recent flooding is just a taste of what’s to come and will be far worse in the near future unless deforestation is halted.
One must understand that any patch of land on the North Coast that does not have dense rain forest on it has been deforested, it may look all nice, green and organic but if it don’t got no forest on it has been completely destroyed, all of it.
So why is all this deforestation taking place you might ask, well it’s super simple it is all to make way for either cow pastures, agriculture or charcoal, we are all to blame for this, all of us, including all of you organic worshiping, vegetable eating, Quinoa loving kooks, you who think that growing fruits and vegetables is somehow better for the environment, it’s not and in fact it impacts local Dominican eco systems in a worse way than cattle does.
See for cattle all you need to do is get rid of trees and let the grass grow, for fruits and vegetables you need to get rid of the trees, plow the land, add fertilizers, use pesticides (organic or synthetic) and then plant the crops or vegetables, this has a far greater impact on the land and the surrounding eco systems than cattle, not to mention fertilizers and pesticides seeping down into the aquifer, organic vegetables better for the environment, yeah right.
There are no evil farmers who hate trees and want to get rid of the forests, yes there are many unscrupulous and one could argue even evil developers and government officials who would destroy forests if that means they can sell you a house or make some money, but a local farmer trying to feed his or her family is not evil.
The problem really starts with people like you and me, people who eat meat, cheese, eggs, platanos, carrots, yucca, goats, vegetables, snails, avocados, fish, drink coffee or eat chocolate, you and I buy all these products from local farmers or markets, I am not saying boycott farmers, but we all need to understand that we are all to blame for this all of us no exceptions, fuck even my dog is part of the problem she owns many a cow bone…
There is an arguably even more sinister side of deforestation, charcoal production, this is a major business and is also a major part of the systematic destruction of all Dominican forests with a large part of the production going to Haiti, but not all of it though.
Hey man don’t you remember that barbecue we had last month before all this rain? fuck dude that was awesome! yeah I remember that holly shit there was so much food I could not even finish it, the dogs loved all the extra meat and bones, hahahahaha… sound familiar? did you even check were that charcoal came from? no of course not, but if you bought it in the the barrio you are 100% guaranteed to have just lit up some local Cabarete protected national park trees to cook all of your meat and vegetables, a very hard cycle to break since we are all contributing to this.
Want some variety? buy your charcoal from Playero or la Sirena and you will be lighting up trees from other parts of the island, it might even make meat taste different than Cabarete trees but I cannot independently verify that though.
I won’t get into charcoal production but to understand how dire the situation really is let’s just focus on farming all farming, yes that means all organic farming too, how do the people actually prepare the land for cattle and agriculture and why this is such a big problem here, ironically the way it’s done is actually very, uhh….organic.
Yeison is a landowner and has a small 5000 square meters piece of land the problem is Yeison cannot do anything with his land as it is covered by pristine forrest, huge trees and all kind of plants and animals.
Yeison would really like to use his land, since it’s in a remote mountainous area he cannot sell it, it has no real estate potential and he really needs to feed his family so he decides to prepare the land to grow Platanos and Yucca, now you might think, oh well there goes 5000 square meters of pristine rain forest, but unfortunately that is not the case at all, far from it.
One beautiful sunny morning Yeison unstraps a two gallon bottle of gasoline from the back of his motorcycle and then sets fire to his land, the fire burns completely uncontrolled and ends up completely destroying 50000 square meters before finally stopping, adjoining lands are now also ready for farming and others may or may not take advantage of this making way for crops and cattle, either way that 500000 square meters is now deforested, all the trees are gone, forever…
That is how it is done in 100% of the cases, there is no precise way to prepare lands for agriculture, there are no bulldozers, no shovels, no workers, there are only a few liters of gasoline and a match, that is why the forests here are all disappearing at an alarming and ever increasing rate.
Now doing this on private land by landowners is one thing but a major part of the problem is that the exact same thing is going on completely unhindered in virtually all Dominican Republic protected areas and national parks, an underfunded Environmental Ministry is for the most part either powerless or unwilling to do anything and vast areas of national parks are being torched on a daily basis, add to this a complete lack of political will and you have a perfect recipe for big floods.
If all protected areas were, well…huh protected and the forests there remained untouched you would have just enough trees around to be able to predict a more or less stable rate of flooding, it would still be bad but it would be predictable, and would probably even level off.
People would know were to build and were it floods, civil engineers could build infrastructure to deflect the water, reinforce bridges and roads and would have a flooding measuring stick, so to speak, and would be able to plan around that in a more or less reliable manner because we could all count on protected areas and national parks to still all be there in the future.
Right now forests in all protected areas of the country are disappearing fast so it is not the case at all, these protected areas and national parks are public land, the government is supposed to protect them, unfortunately so far protected areas have not been any better off than “unprotected” private lands.
I am a cave diver, I have been roaming around this country since late 2006 looking for caves I have seen the forests disappear all over the country but in particular in the mountain ranges between Puerto Plata and Moca, in only about 10 years most of it is gone, it’s completely insane, were there was once trees so high you were actually driving around in the shade the whole time it is all green rolling hills you can even see Puerto Plata in the distance now, there are no trees.
The Cabarete area is not any better off, the hills and forests in the back of La Cienega are all being cut or burnt down, on the south side of the lagoon there are numerous areas were charcoal production is in full swing and no matter were you look deforestation is everywhere. This is supposed to be a national park and yet each day patches of forest are being torched.
In the hills behind Veragua there are no more trees at all, it’s all gone, miles and miles of cow pastures and agriculture, Sabaneta is now the recipient of unprecedented flooding and to make things even worse the unrestricted sand extraction in all the Sabaneta area rivers has reached industrial levels, the few who benefit from this have actually managed to alter the course of the Yasica river, the river is now flowing into areas it never flooded into before with catastrophic results that will only get worse.
Last summer we discovered flooded springs in the Haitises national park a supposedly protected area and full on official national park of international renown, we found big caves there so I was there every week end with my friends exploring, it’s an amazingly beautiful area, in fact it is by far the most pristine and incredible looking natural environment I have ever seen anywhere in the world, but my heart sunk each time I went there, every single week there was a new area of torched forest, without fail every single week!
In just 3 months the entire forest in the area we were exploring (about the size of the Cabarete lagoon) was completely gone, all of it, all that was left was the charred remains of what was once a majestic rain forest.
I spent a lot of time there talking to the park rangers to try and understand what is going on, the problem is people moving into protected areas unhindered, there is a long standing official court order to evict but zero political will and no allocated resources to enforce anything, here is what happens on a daily basis;
Dominican developers muscle into a protected national park area, claim it and then torch the land to prepare it for agriculture (the main activity in this area) Haitian migrants are brought in (cheap labor) to work the crops, but making things even worse the Dominican bosses for the most part pay the workers with food produced from the crops increasing the need to produce even more and the cycle goes on but with a very sinister twist.
This area’s aquifers are the main water supply for all the surrounding areas which include some pretty big cities such as Hato Mayor del Rey, Bayaguana, El Valle and Sabana de la Mar in fact this is the largest fresh water aquifer in the entire country.
It consists of a Karst limestone plateau with conical hills, sinkholes and caverns, and there is a large area of mangrove forest on the coast, this the largest limestone reserve in the Caribbean and at it’s highest points forms a sort of long series of ridges, these are the main areas being deforested and are between 150 and 300 meters above sea level, mostly on top areas of the Haitises national park.
All this farming requires pesticides and fertilizers which are used in copious amounts, and since water runs downstream (as in downwards) it all collects into the aquifer and through the springs were it is then collected as drinking water, every single surrounding communities use that water and it is guaranteed to be full of pesticides and fertilizers in ever increasing amounts.
While on the subject of pesticides I really need to clarify a long standing myth, organic does not mean pesticide free farming at all it only means that organic farmers are allowed to use pesticides derived from natural sources and not synthetic pesticides.
Sounds good on paper but organic pesticides are on par with synthetic pesticides when it comes to damaging the environment and being a health hazard but not in the way you might think, organic pesticides have a shorter half life and in most cases break down faster than their synthetic counterpart, sounds better for the environment and it is but here’s the catch; they are less effective and require much higher doses and more frequent applications, Rotenone and Pyrethrin are two common organic pesticides but both require on average between 7 and 10 times more, so in the end much more organic chemicals end up washing into the ground and straight into the aquifer.
Organic does not mean better for the environment or healthier it only means that it occurs in nature, that’s right! you guessed it! just like….. oil, that was a bit to obvious though let me give you a few more examples to ponder on;
Arsenic is an organic compound found in nature, it is also one of the most toxic poisons on earth, Arsenic is used in pressure treated pine and has been found to be so toxic it is now banned in the U.S, but hey it’s organic.
Mercury is also an organic compound found in nature, it is also responsible for some of the worst toxic pollution on the planet and has currently contaminated almost all species of ocean fish, but hey it’s organic.
Organic does not mean anything, it just means from naturally occurring compounds, better for the environment? I don’t fucking think so, just as toxic as their synthetic counterparts, in most cases yes and often even worse.
Organic farming does not really mean shit, it’s pretty much a feel good industry and a marketing ploy, it’s tree hugging devotees blindly believing anything as long as they hear the words Organic, Natural, Whole, Sustainable, sugar free or Moringa, you feel better because you think eating organic vegetables somehow is better for the environment, that it’s a solution to “evil” traditional farming and it magically does no damage.
Step off of your organic high horses, you do not belong to an ecological elite, you do not have any solutions and do not contribute to preserving the environment, you are an integral part of the problem like everyone else.
Your organic way of life is doing just as much damage, if not more so, than traditional farming, all you tree hugging, Alaskan Thunderfuck weed smoking, Goji berry lotion applying, ocean ionizing Aquatards, it’s time for you to put your energy and vibes into a real fight, one that could really help save trees, rivers and nature, a fight that could help prevent disastrous flooding from getting even worse, this is it, this is the last stand for the few remaining Dominican forests, now is your chance to be part of the solution…. for real.
To make a difference and to tackle the deforestation problem in an effective manner we first need to accept that we are all part of the problem, deforestation is happening because of all of us, no exceptions, none, not one, nope, conio k no t dije, if your human you are guilty.
There is little we can do to stop private landowners from torching their lands and producing fruits and cocoa, products we buy every day, we are part of that problem, however we can and must do something about the protected areas, the national parks, charcoal production and the illegal and unhindered extraction of sand from rivers.
There are no evil farmers who hate trees and forests but there are unscrupulous developers working in tandem with a government and local officials who will accept money to turn a blind eye.
The blind eye makes it possible for countless shameless Dominican “entrepreneurs” to invade national parks and protected areas, torching every single tree and killing off all the wildlife while polluting pristine aquifers with pesticides and fertilizers.
The blind eye also benefits an elite few who, with the full knowledge and approval of every single branch of government and local officials, day after day extract industrial amounts of sand from this country’s rivers bleeding them dry and altering their courses.
The rivers now flood in places they never did before and with each passing day less and less sand flows out into the sea, coastal communities are suffering from worsening erosion year after year and most will disappear in the near future.
These are public lands, pristine untouched rain forests, fragile desert bush, marine sanctuaries, mangroves and rivers and they belong to the people, not the government, not to private developers or farmers.
The accumulated results of this environmental genocide is now really being felt for the first time in a big way, the fragile balance between natural drainage and runoff has been broken, we have reached the tipping point and now all it will take for catastrophic flooding is a an above average amount of rain.
If there was a political will to put an end to this it would be easy to enforce and the problem would go away almost overnight.
Unfortunately there is no political will because the direct effects have never really become a problem of nationwide concern, until now…
Trees go silently as they are burned and cut down, rivers do not scream as they are bled dry, nature has just warned us the tipping point has been reached, what part of deforestation do we still not understand?.
It is up to all of us to demand in one united voice; the elite few that are destroying this country’s natural heritage must be stopped.