Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Importante periodico New York Times Publica Informacion sobre Miches.-

MICHES, Dominican Republic — From a development perspective, this town has a few problems.

SIGHTS The surf and the local catch around Miches, Dominican Republic, are the focus of an effort to develop small-scale, low-impact ecotourism.
MICHES, Dominican Republic — From a development perspective, this town has a few problems.
The local catch around Miches.  It is 60 miles from the nearest airport, a three-hour drive on roads so bad the trip can be nauseating. Electricity is erratic, drinking water is contaminated, the beach in town is littered with trash and nearby rivers are either clogged with an invasive weed or plagued by silty agricultural runoff that threatens the fish on offshore reefs.
But to a team of conservation biologists and other researchers from Columbia University who began working here in 2007, Miches has great potential. They see tourists camping in platform tents, like those in St. John, in the Virgin Islands. They see hikers in its lush green hills, people riding horseback on pristine beaches outside of town and others heading out to sea to watch whales, dolphins or manatees. They imagine the town’s half-derelict waterfront plaza lined with locally owned restaurants serving locally caught fish.
To make these visions a reality, the researchers, from the Center for Environment, Economy and Society, at Columbia, have begun a sweeping effort to identify and repair problems in the town and region and to capitalize on their assets. They have recruited fishermen volunteers to count marine mammals, assess the health of coral reefs and measure the effect of invasive water plants. With townspeople, they are devising projects to improve sanitation. And they are working with farmers and fishermen to determine fair compensation for people who contribute to better offshore water quality by keeping their cattle away from inland streams.
The goal is a tourism economy, but not typically Caribbean all-inclusive “high volume, low cost, keep churning the people through” tourism, said Donald J. Melnick, a conservation biologist who is co-director of the Columbia center.
Dr. Melnick said participants envisioned small-scale, low-impact ecotourism that would sustain the environment rather than degrade it. And, as much as possible, the environment will stay in local hands.
When he first met with community leaders, Dr. Melnick said on a recent visit here, they pointed to places like Bávaro, a town 60 miles to the east, where a building boom is under way, fueled by the success of the nearby Punta Cana resort and largely financed by foreigners.
“They said, ‘Look, we are poor, we don’t have very much, but we have Miches,’ ” Dr. Melnick recalled. “ ‘But with all this development going on in the Dominican Republic, if you come back in 10 years, we will still be poor, but Miches will not be ours.’ ”
That is what the project intends to prevent.
Unlike the Punta Cana resort, built on land that was more or less pristine when developers acquired it, Miches (pronounced MEE-chis) was settled hundreds of years ago and is home to about 9,000 people, with 11,000 more or so in the region.
You have a whole city there, a pretty good footprint of people, impact on the landscape in terms of agriculture and fishing,” said Jake Kheel, environmental director for Grupo Puntacana, which operates the Punta Cana resort. “It’s going to add some challenges.”
In a way, the project began in 2001, when the United Nations adopted targets, known as the Millennium Development Goals, for reducing poverty, disease and other problems. Dr. Melnick had a central role in the United Nations’ work on environmental sustainability, and the Dominican Republic was one of its “pilot countries.”
John Gagain, the American-born head of the Dominican Republic’s commission on sustainable development, said that President Leonel Fernández Reyna had decided to focus the country’s efforts on “a place that is poor but with incredible potential.” Mr. Fernández invited Dr. Melnick to test his ideas in Miches, and the Columbia group began work here.
Miches is in a basin, ringed by the mountains of the Cordillera Oriental to the south, whose streams and rivers drain onto the beaches, “conduits for all the human activities in the watershed,” Dr. Melnick said. After months of consultation with community officials, local fishermen’s associations and other groups, a consensus emerged that water would be the initial focus.
In the Los Mamayes district along the town waterfront, for example, sanitary facilities were limited to chamber pots that residents would empty into the sea. But project managers, working with local residents, organized the construction of latrines.
The Peace Corps provided the design, which James Danoff-Burg, an ecologist who directs the Columbia effort in Miches, said used a “natural filtration system” to control the flow of contaminants. The Cisneros Group, a Venezuelan company that owns about a half-mile of beach out of town, paid for the materials, and community residents did the work. cortesy of THE NEW YORK TIMES.


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