Haiti, an Environmental Wasteland

Jean Wiener, one Haitian conservationist is leading a homegrown campaign to protect the country's northern coastal areas, including barrier reefs and threatened mangrove forests that serve as the crucial breeding grounds and nurseries for fish and crustaceans. The virgin forests that once covered the entire country have now been reduced to 2% of the total land area, losing 3% of its forests every year. The most Haitians still depend on wood and charcoal as their primary fuel source. It has been estimated that the average life span in Haiti is shortened by 6.6 years because of the impacts of indoor air pollution caused by indoor burning of biomass (United Nations, 1998). Until recently the government had done little to combat this problem or find energy alternatives to save the forests. As of 2001, four species of mammals, eleven bird species, and six types of reptiles were endangered. At least 13 species have become extinct, including the Imposter Hutia, the Haitian Edible Rat and the Caribbean Monk Seal. Today, Haiti has gained the reputation of an "environmental wasteland".


Jean Wiener, the 50 year old activist and the winner of prestigious Goldman Environmental Foundation award valuing $175,000, has successfully created the country's first protected marine area, which includes Three Bays Protected Area (Parc Marin des Trois Baies) covering nearly 90,000 hectares including the bays of overfished Caracol, Limonade, and Ft. Liberté, as well as the Lagon aux Boeufs and as much as 20 percent of the country's remaining mangrove where it is now illegal to chop down trees. The scientist is hopeful that Three Bays Park will eventually help to rebuild the stock of depleted marine species and maintain marine biodiversity provided the government agrees to support with regular patrol. Weiner further recommends development of alternative livelihood for the local fishermen.

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