UN rejects Los Haitises cement plant

The United Nations multi-sectorial team set up to evaluate the decision to install a cement plant in a buffer zone of the Los Haitises National Park has concluded that the project is neither viable nor pertinent.
Los Haitises is known as one of the world’s largest karst reserves, and is a source of reserve water for the country, in addition to its proven cultural heritage as reflected in Taino cave drawings.
United Nations Development Program (UNDP) representative in the country Valerie Julliand described the Los Haitises case as “a historic moment of growth for the national society.” She stressed that it showed how civil society, the private sector and the general public could work together to resolve an environmental conflict. “A country will develop when all its actors come together and contribute,” she said. “This is a historic moment for the country, for society and for the strengthening of Dominican institutions,” she stated.
The announcement, which was made at the UN Office in Santo Domingo on Thursday morning, was received with hugs, loud applause and cheers, with the feeling being that it represented a victory for civic action.
The Presidency called in the UN to deliver an opinion after widespread public rejection of the proposal, as reflected in a Gallup Poll that showed that 85% were opposed to the construction on the site. Ministry of Environment specialists originally rejected the project, but President Leonel Fernandez overruled their decision. The company in question, Consorcio Minero Dominicano, is owned by Grupo Estrella, a major contractor for several major non-tendered public works, including the Duarte Corridor and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism new building, among many others.
The UN team said that overall the authorities followed the legalities in the process of making the concession, but didn’t meet the technical and scientific rigors demanded for such a complex project. The UN also based its decision on the fact that there was not enough information for the conclusions of viability reached in the environmental impact study that justified the installation. The granting of permission by the Ministry of Environment did not adhere to certain criteria, such as the precautionary principle and international conservation conventions on cultural heritage as set out in Environmental Law 68-00.
She stressed that the final decision in the case now depends on the government and the judiciary. The case is being heard in court. Earlier, a court reached practically the same conclusion as the UNDP, ordering the suspension of construction works at the cement plant, upholding the precautionary principle of international law and Environment Law 68-00.
Speaking on behalf of the UNDP commission, environmental impact consultant Eduardo Vadillo Sanchez said that their analysis concluded that there was not sufficient information for the environmental impact study to conclude that the construction of the cement plant could go ahead at the chosen site. During the press conference, Julliand said that the announcement clarified that the project would not be viable in any other areas near the karst region of Los Haitises.
The group reached the conclusion that the benefits and opportunities for the area did not justify the risks and high costs to society, and decided on these grounds that the project is not pertinent. Vadillo said their conclusions were backed by scientific facts.
Domingo Abreu, an environmentalist who championed the group of young people who led the campaigns against the project, said that the decision is an endorsement of Dominican environmental specialists who early on had reached the same conclusion. He urged the government to listen to Dominican experts in the future.
See www.pnud.org.do/el-proyecto-de-la-cementera-en-gonzalo-no-es-viable-ni-pertinente

Filed Under: Puerto Plata Regional News

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