Local July 21, 2016 | 8:12 am

Dominican Republic’s forests vanish with the government’s ‘consent’

Santo Domingo.- Punta Cana Foundation vice president JakeKheel, whose film "Muerte por mil cortes” (Death by a thousand cuts) documentedthe collapse and silent devastation of Dominicans forests, on Wednesday calledon the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAMDR) and the government to brake the large-scalecoal industry being developed in country, sometimes with Environment officials’consent.

The prominent environmentalist, whose documentary on the charcoaltrade shows how it consumes national forests, cited the case of Sierra deBahoruco, near Enriquillo lake (west), where he says the slash-and-burn industrysupplies a demand that in a smaller scale supplies the Haitian market, where asmuch as 80% of the population uses it to cook.

He spoke while showing a part of the film where some buyersin Haiti acknowledge they cannot use propane gas because it’s too expensive, andprefer the cheaper charcoal.

The industry also supplies the US market, where Kheel says theDominican Republic competes in quantity with charcoal which that countryimports from Brazil and other parts of South America. “Behind them are not onlyHaitian laborers, but Dominicans who participate who are “big shots of the business."

"Worst of all is that this activity occurs with the EnvironmentMinistry’s consent," he said, and cites the case of a charcoal exporter wholast year had a permit to cut 257,000 trees per year. At that time, at leastfive businesses had permits to export charcoal.

Kheel noted that charcoal trafficking is illegal in thecountry and that a permit for cut trees cannot make it legal. He said permits tocut trees must be banned unless they are part of a management plan.

“The film aims to draw attention to the issue, and theimportance of forests to deal with climate change. It also seeks to influence policiesto curb the morass and the amnesia which lets forest collapse in silence,”Kheel said in the keynote speech to the AMCHAMRD’s monthly luncheon.

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