What is the future for wetlands in the Dominican Republic?
The Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention reiterated last week his concern about the new law on Protected Areas which was approved by the Parliament of the Dominican Republic but which is now undergoing litigation as to its unconstitutionality.
On the occasion of the nomination of H.E. Dr. Leonel Fernández as the new President of the Dominican Republic, the Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands, Dr Peter Bridgewater, reminded the Government of its international obligations regarding protected areas. As in previous correspondence with the former President, H.E. Dr. Hipólito Mejía, and as reported in the press release published by the Secretariat of the Convention on 14 May 2004, the Secretary General expressed his deepest concern about a law that would allow fragmentation and reduction of protected areas for development purposes in the Dominican Republic. Recent protests in the country have focused mainly on the development of tourism infrastructures.
One of the possibly affected areas would be Lake Enriquillo, designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on 15th May 2002. Lake Enriquillo is the biggest lake in the Caribbean region and is an extremely important site for the conservation of biological diversity in this area. The lake is home to the three biggest reptile species on la Hispaniola island, all three threatened with extinction. The lake is also important for more than 65 bird species, five of them endangered, besides being a place of great archaeological interest.
In his letter to the President, the Secretary General urged the Government of the Dominican Republic to adhere fully to its international responsibilities. The recent landslides and floods affecting Haiti and the Dominican Republic are an example of how a sustainable tourism industry can be threatened by environmental damage (e.g., forest clearing and wetland drainage). The Secretary General offered all the support of the Ramsar Convention in order to find acceptable solutions to allow for sustainable development of the tourism industry in the Dominican Republic while at the same time ensuring the conservation of its national resources, according to the Convention's basic philosophy: the wise use principle.