By The Associated Press – July 11, 2013, PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti
Haiti has taken a rare step to protect the
endangered mangrove forests along its coastline, the Caribbean nation’s
government announced Thursday.
The move could complicate U.S. efforts to build a port in a bay that
contains a rare marine and mangrove-forest ecosystem east of the northern
city of Cap-Haitien.
The administration of Haitian President Michel Martelly said in a statement
Thursday that the decree approved by the Council of Ministers on Wednesday
will ban construction, fishing and hunting in mangrove forests. People will
be forbidden from cutting, selling or otherwise making use of the trees.
Environmental problems abound in Haiti. Only 2 percent of the country still
has trees because of decades of deforestation, mostly caused by the
longtime common practice of chopping down trees to make charcoal as an
inexpensive source of fuel.
The U.S. government has allocated $170 million to build a port and a power
plant to serve the recently constructed Caracol Industrial Park, a
$300-million facility that is the United States’ biggest investment in
Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.
An environmental impact study has been commissioned by the U.S. Agency for
International Development before port construction can begin. In a written
statement, agency spokeswoman Anna-Maija Mattila-Litvak declined to comment
on the possible impact Haiti’s latest move could have on port plans until
the environmental study has been completed. She said she did not have
information about when the impact report would be finished.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report last month that
the Caracol industrial park, the power plant and port are interdependent
and that all of them must be constructed for the others to succeed. The
same study also said that USAID needed to fill a vacant post for a port
engineer, who will oversee port planning and construction.
In the meantime, another port in nearby Cap-Haitien doesn’t have the
infrastructure to support Caracol, so supplies for the industrial park are
now being shipped out of the neighboring Dominican Republic. The park’s
main tenant, the South Korean manufacturing firm Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd.,
has already moved in and has begun work making T-shirts.