From: Alister Doyle, Reuters
Published January 20, 2010 06:20 AM

Haiti's environment needs long-term help

Long-term efforts to help Haiti recover from the earthquake will have to reverse environmental damage such as near-total deforestation that threatens food and water supplies for the Caribbean nation, experts say.

The focus is now on emergency aid -- Haitian officials estimate that between 100,000 and 200,000 people died in the January 12 quake. But President Rene Preval urged donors on Monday also to remember the country's long-term needs.


Experts say deforestation in Haiti stretching back to the Duvalier dictatorships -- leaving the nation with less than 2 percent forest cover -- contributes to erosion that undermines food output by the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

"We need to create mechanisms that reinforce better use of natural resources," said Asif Zaidi, Operations Manager of the post-conflict and disaster management branch of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).

Before the quake, UNEP had decided on a two-year project from 2010 to bolster Haiti's environment, from forests to coral reefs, spokesman Nick Nuttall said.

Among quick measures for donors could be to provide propane to encourage a shift from charcoal-burning stoves. That could be backed in the longer-term by reforestation and investments in renewable energies such as solar or wind power, Zaidi said.

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