Haiti’s Lack Of Trees Could Lead To Post Earthquake Landslides

The border between Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic highlights the relative deforestation of Haiti.  Photograph courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
The border between Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic highlights the relative deforestation of Haiti. Photograph courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

I didn’t go out yesterday but it rained in New York City. After a conversation with my mom, who got back from Haiti only a few days before the earthquake, I considered what it would be like if it rained in Haiti yesterday.

I’ve spoken of my love of trees and what they mean to me personally, but I’ve been wanting to write about the trees in Haiti for a while now…because there aren’t very many anymore.

Located so close to the equator Haiti has a tropical/rain forest climate and at one time many trees. Now Haiti is considered one of the most heavily deforested country in the world.

The trees were cut for fuel to burn or turn into charcoal. Some say the wood was also used in European furniture. I can’t find any evidence of that but it would not surprise me.

After 4 hurricanes in a row in recent years the effects of the deforestation were apparent in the many floods, mudslides and soil erosion adding to the damages from those natural disasters. Trees act as a buffer against heavy winds and rain and keep soil in place, thereby preventing mudslides.

Rain in the wake of earthquake rescue efforts would create an even bigger logistical nightmare than the ones the media continues to talk about now.

According to nationalgeographic.com

“Among the rare bright spots for Haiti this week are┬áthat its capital, Port-au-Prince, is on relatively flat land, making the landslide threat one less thing to worry about, and that the earthquake struck during the dry season.”

Still the images are disturbing and the effects of deforestation still looms as a threat in the future as rebuilding efforts are a long process.

In this video from AlJazeeraEnglish some explanation is also given as to why Haiti is called “the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere”.

Dwindling forests worsen Haiti storms – 7 June 09

There are organizations working to plant trees and help in Haiti. Here are some courtesy of treehugger.com

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