Written by: Dairanys Grullon-Virgil and Isabel Cristina
The Dominican Republic has over ten national parks and reserves for which its preservation is protected by the constitution. Each area protects endangered species, indigenous land, and other natural resources. The main objective for preserving these areas is to prevent exploitation or occupation of the land so that it can continue to be enjoyed by present and future generations. Whether it is preserved for Dominican citizens or tourists is another question. Unfortunately, present and past generations have struggled to protect the land from foreign powers. When examining the history of the Dominican Republic, you’ll find a lot of instances where individuals sought to enrich themselves by, well, selling the country.
The most recent case has been followed closely on social media as environmentalists, coalitions, activists, educators, and more have united to bring awareness to the illegal sale of protected land. On Jan. 14, Minister of Environment Angel Estevez issued an illegal authorization for tourist development in the East National Park, Cotubanamá, to Globalia, one of the largest tourism and transport holding companies in Spain. This decision was made despite Resolution No. 0009/2018 in the Dominican Republic Constitution, which details the objectives and uses allowed for this protected landscape, as well as the prohibition of the construction of any type of tourist hotels/apartments and non-detachable infrastructure.
In a press release communicated by the Coalition for the Defense of Protected Areas in the Dominican Republic, we learn how the intended project in Cotubanamá could have a tremendous impact on the biodiversity of the Cotubanamá Park and lead to environmental consequences in the future. Granting these permits is a clear act of coercion by the Minister of Environment as it violates several administrative procedures and legal documents including the Constitution of the Dominican Republic. As a result of the public outcry against the project, President Danilo Medina ordered the immediate halt of construction in the area and an investigation into Estevez and the Minister of the Presidency, Gustavo Montalvo.
This isn’t the first time that a national park or reserve is targeted, and the case of Cotubanamá is not an isolated case. There have been other reported environmental violations, including the illegal sowing of avocado in the Sierra Bahoruco, the exploitation of Loma Miranda, Valle Nuevo, and illegal agricultural practices in la Cienaga al Medio, Las Espinas, y La Nuez. In the 00s, the proposal for the construction of a cement factory in Los Haitises was rejected after much protest from the public, government officials, and the UN getting evolved to evaluate. Currently, in terms of Cotubanamá, environmentalists like Coalition for the defense of Protected Areas in the Dominican Republic, SOS Ambiente RD, and YohanNature among others are continuing to spread awareness on the importance of preserving the ecosystems and resources of the peninsula. They are also holding the government accountable in upholding Resolution No. 0009/2018 in the Dominican Republic Constitution.
When it comes to issues on the homeland, such as Cotubanamá, there are many who believe that it does not and should not concern the Diaspora. But it does and it should. As an important contributor to the economy of the Dominican Republic, as citizens and descendants of Dominican citizens, the Diaspora has the power to not just support but defend the peninsula.
Here’s how you can help. We need the Dominican Diaspora to take the next actions steps to protect our homeland:
Step 1: visit or follow the Instagram pages of the Ministry of the Presidency @mindprerd and Ministry of the Environment @ambienterd.
Step 2: write or comment on their account requesting the complete annulment of the permits granted to the conglomerate Globalia and the resignation of the Minister of environment, Angel Estevez.
Step 3: Use the hashtag #SOSCOTUBANAMÁ and tag the Coalition of the Defense of Protected Areas in the Dominican Republic @coalicion.areasprotegidas.rd.
About the Writers:
Dairanys Grullon-Virgil was born in the Dominican Republic and came to New York at the age of 13. She is passionate about gender equality, education and the arts. She is a nonprofit professional, community organizer, and social entrepreneur with a background in international studies and non-profit management. Dairanys graduated with a Master’s in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management from the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College (CUNY).
Isabel Cristina is a Family Planning Health educator who is currently working in the South Bronx. She is passionate about advocating for patients’ rights and promoting health literacy for patients and students. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the City College of New York. She is a lover of books and an aspiring writer, who writes stories inspired by the Dominican diaspora. Having emigrated from the Dominican Republic as a young girl, the process of immigration and her memories of the homeland inspire her writing. She is a firm believer in creating safe spaces where women could come together, organize, share stories, and empower one another.