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On Sunday June 5, one day before the unexpected death of the Minister of the Environment, Orlando Jorge Meraenvironmental organizations published a press release for the day of the environment entitled: “Protected areas in a state of calamity”, signed by the Academy of Sciences of the Dominican Republic, the Environmental Commission of the UASD, Moscoso Puello Foundation, Action Foundation Verde, Inc. Ecological Society of CIbao (Soeci), Grupo Jaragua, among others.

In said document, the organizations declare: “Despite the will of President Abinader, who even created the Loma Siete Picos National Park and other areas, the National System of Protected Areas is going through one of the most critical moments in its history, because the management of the Ministry of the Environment has been limited to cosmetic or media solutions, and not substantive, in the face of the serious threats that lie in wait for the country’s most important natural heritage”.

They base these statements on information collected in different protected areas throughout the country, they denounce operational and financial problems, which are reflected in park rangers with payments in arrears for several months, in the cancellation of almost half of the protection and surveillance personnel, the siege against administrators due to political and other types of pressure, as well as the lack of basic logistical resources such as fuel, means of mobility and work supplies.

In turn, the environmentalists called on the authorities of the Ministry of the Environment to “put aside their internal differences, unify work criteria and pay urgent attention to this issue, which puts control over the continuous incursion of predators that besiege valuable natural resources”. The answers to these demands were put on hold with the tragic event that ended the life of Orlando Jorge Mera.

Diario Libre consulted Nelson Bautista, from Acción Verde, Yolanda León, from Grupo Jaragua, and Andrés Ferrer, from the Moscoso Puello Foundation, about the big issues that are still pending for the Ministry of the Environment.

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Area intervened by man in Valle Nuevo.

1.New Valley

All three agree that Valle Nuevo continues to be the most important issue.

Nelson Bautista explains that, just one day before the minister’s death, in the midst of complaints that cattle, especially sheep and pigs, persisted on the north slope, Orlando had initiated a controversial compensation process for more than 300 “occupants and workers” allegedly evicted from Valle Nuevo. Previous censuses, carried out by the Ministry of the Environment and various associations, indicated that the number of people affected was significant. This was an issue pending review with the minister for the week of the fateful event and is still pending.

Yolanda León considers that it was a mistake by the ministry to compensate those owners or “supposed owners”.

In November 2021, Orlando Jorge Mera announced a new term of one year for the cessation of cultivation on the southern slope, corresponding to San José de Ocoa, under the control of the ministry; environmentalists question the effectiveness of this term, in the face of complaints that certain crops such as onions continue to be introduced into the area, under very irregular patrolling.

Andrés Ferrer highlights that today a virtual meeting of officials from the Center for Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) with the Members of the Co-management Council should take place, where opportunities to finance the updating of planning tools for conservation in the Ébano Verde-Green corridor would be presented. Valle Nuevo-Humeadora, a priority landscape for CEPF made up of the World Bank, GEF, European Union, France and Japan.

2. Sierra de Bahoruco

At the end of 2020, Orlando announced the rescue of the three great national parks, Valle Nuevo, Sierra de Bahoruco and Los Haitises. In an interview with Diario Libre, he explained that by March 2021 the situation in Valle Nuevo and Sierra de Bahoruco would be resolved and by the end of the first semester of that same year, Los Haitises, which also remains untouched.

“That is why we have set March (2021) as a deadline, so that it gives us time to do the studies that we are doing and thus be able to take tough action, but at the same time it is understood by the different sectors,” he explained in that interview. the minister on Sierra de Bahoruco.

For Nelson Bautista and Yolanda León, Sierra de Bahoruco has been one of the most abandoned in recent years, with little surveillance, vandalized control centers and a “merciless siege by avocado growers, poachers and all sorts of illegalities. ”, which have led to large recent fires, which in a few months devastated thousands of tasks in this important protected area.

In addition to the fact that agriculture and livestock are still allowed in the protected area, especially avocado plantations.

3. Paralysis of infrastructure investment

Nelson Bautista explains that one of the most recurrent complaints in meetings with Environment officials is the “painful” situation in which most of the infrastructure and transport equipment of the National System of Protected Areas find themselves. According to the environmentalist, reliable sources indicate that the budget execution for this issue has been scarce or null in the last two years.

“According to data from the Ministry itself: ‘a significant amount of infrastructure is in the bidding process’, but this information has been repeated since last year and already in mid-2022 it is still one of the issues to be resolved,” Bautista explained.

4. The dilemma of the staff in charge

Among the achievements published by the ministry in recent days, it stands out that 1,050 park rangers and forest rangers were provided with life insurance.

According to data provided by a source close to the ministry, in August 2020, the payroll of the Ministry of the Environment had about 500 appointed park rangers and a similar number was designated in what is known as “nominillas” or “brigades”. These “brigades” were dismissed, with the purpose of recruiting new park rangers who would have formal jobs.

However, in June 2022, not only was the designation of nominal personnel (brigades) resumed, but now the ratio is almost 3 to 1, for each appointed park ranger, there are up to 3 in brigades. In this way, the “formal” designations today number less than 300 in a system considered by environmental groups to be deficient.

Nelson Bautista explains that, while this is happening, looting and vandalization of some places are reported, the most dramatic being those of Sierra de Bahoruco, the fire at the La Salcedoa checkpoint, in 2021, and in June 2022 the same in the Miguel Domingo Fuertes Natural Monument, to name a few.

5. The Environment Dialogue Table

On May 5, representatives of the social, business, labor sectors, environmental groups and state agencies agreed this Wednesday to support several bills considered essential in environmental terms, within the framework of the fifth meeting of the dialogue table on the Environment. , Natural Resources and Climate Change.

That day, according to what was expressed by Orlando Jorge Merafrom the table, coordinated by the Economic and Social Council (CES), will support the bills of territorial planning, water and maritime coastal resources, “(initiatives) that are consigned in law 64-00 as sectoral laws” .

Bautista is part of this table and considers that this chapter “flowed in a dynamic way”, the innate conditions of negotiator, courteous and conciliatory that adorned the minister had taken this thematic table to a defining point: it was agreed that in at least two further meetings would be in a position to sign a consensus agreement.

“The Wednesday after that black Monday was the date indicated to continue with the order of the day. To date, and for obvious reasons, there is still no certainty about when or under what conditions the issue will be followed up,” Bautista concluded.

Loyola 79: Tree by Orlando

The Loyola 79 Foundation calls for each citizen who identifies with the conservation of the country’s natural resources to plant one or more trees to honor the memory of the late Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, Orlando, on June 19. George Mere. The activity will be carried out in the “Bosque Loyola” project located in the Botanical Garden of Santiago – Dr. Eugenio de Jesús Marcano. There, on 7,000 square meters, the foundation is creating a special micro-ecosystem using the method of Japanese botanical expert Akira Miyawaki. The Foundation has created the email address [email protected] so that anyone can take a photo of the planting and thus count it.

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