By Milton Tejada
The conservation of the exceptional natural values of the southwest of the Dominican Republic must go hand in hand with a rational ecotourism use that guarantees long-term benefits for the entire local population.
"Tourism development should not be an excuse to undermine an exceptional natural heritage that is not only of the Dominicans, but also of humanity" (Francesc Giró).
President Leonel Fernández recently traveled to Europe. One of its fundamental objectives in this type of trip is to offer the investment opportunities that exist in the Dominican Republic, a country where relatively cheap beach and sun tourism has developed, but which has become the sector that generates the most foreign exchange. to the national coffers. On this trip there was an offer: the possibility for French capital to invest in the construction of four “ecotourism” hotels in Bahía de Las Águilas, an area within the Jaragua National Park, therefore, a protected area. At the ears of the president is Felix Jiménez, Minister of Tourism, who has tried several times to make investments in the area possible, despite the fact that the law prohibits it.
In his first months, Jiménez requested the help of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to prepare a study of the feasibility of investments in Bahía de Las Águilas. He thought that the UNWTO would be a natural ally of his claims. He was wrong. A preliminary report was delivered to him in January 2005. Disclosed timidly by the Dominican press, said report does not favor the Minister's plans, therefore, its logical conclusion was: it should not be disclosed. The investigation did not lead to the conclusions desired by the Minister.
At the head of the UNWTO mission was Francesc Giró. Its objective: to prepare a project document aimed at formulating a master plan for the tourism development of the southwestern region of the Dominican Republic and the southeastern region of the Republic of Haiti, with emphasis on the coastal strip from Cabo Beata to the town of Pedernales , and in the territory of Haiti to the population of Marigot, in order to eradicate extreme poverty in these areas in both countries.
Today, the Dominican Republic needs the solidarity of the international environmental movement, of those who know that our planet is mortally wounded and that the Jaragua National Park is the area with the greatest biodiversity in the Antilles. From this country, the environmental movement launches an SOS for organizations throughout Latin America to say NO to the destruction of a heritage that is not only of the Dominicans, but of all humanity.
Giró's report was written in Barcelona, Spain, February 2005. Here are some external considerations by Francesc Giró, in his preliminary report or account of his mission (our black girls, Milton Tejada C.).
“(The Park) Jaragua has an exceptional value both from the landscape point of view, as well as from the point of view of biodiversity, hosting a large number of endemic plants and animals and preserving plant communities in a practically intact state
“The ecosystems of the Jaragua Park are extremely fragile, due to the aridity of the area and lack of water. The installation of any infrastructure and in particular the opening of tracks or footpaths, should be done with the utmost caution. The existing population of fishermen and the means at their disposal would indicate a sustainable use of the fishing resource to date, without major problems.
"In Pedernales water seems to be one of the limiting factors for its development. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Jaragua has remained as it is.
“The province of Pedernales has a unique opportunity to develop ecotourism, having at a very short distance one of the best samples of the Caribbean region of dry forests, virgin beaches, wetlands and coral reefs, and the mountains with different types of forest, spectacular views, mild temperature and a great wealth of endemic birds. There is the possibility of improving and beautifying the town of Pedernales, turning it into a tourist attraction and allowing the development of small and medium hotels in the population. Finally, Between Pedernales and Cabo Rojo there is a long beach with wetlands and mangroves, where the development of beach tourism could be promoted, with some larger hotels. These developments, which would undoubtedly have a great impact on the natural areas on which they would be implanted, should be made incorporating the natural values of their environment such as mangroves, lagoons and wetlands, as ornamental elements, as buffer zones between one hotel and the next, recognizing its values and attractiveness. Each hotel should have an area equal to or greater than the one it occupies for a “garden” - a private nature reserve for its clients and as a contribution to the conservation of biodiversity.
“In Pedernales an exceptional nature that is found inside and outside the national parks contrasts with a population with a high level of unemployment. The Tourism Development Master Plan must guarantee that tourism development has an impact on the eradication of poverty and that it takes place by adopting the principles of environmental sustainability. It's fundamental that if hotel complexes are developed, they will have the maximum impact on the population, and even a positive impact on the conservation of the natural values of the region. The Tourism development should not be an excuse to undermine an exceptional natural heritage that is not only of the Dominicans, but also of humanity
“The conservation of the exceptional natural values of the southwest of the Dominican Republic must go hand in hand with a rational ecotourism use that guarantees long-term benefits for the entire local population. Especially in this region of the Dominican, there is an opportunity to do things differently, an opportunity to create new instruments such as the one that has already been proposed, a social and environmental fund, nurtured by investors, hoteliers and clients, that promotes investments in education, health and other areas for the benefit of the local population, as well as investments in parks and natural areas to guarantee their conservation and the maintenance of the infrastructure for visitors ”. www.EcoPortal.net
Milton Tejada C. / Special for
* Milton Tejada CSe served as Director of Communications for the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in the Dominican Republic.