From Sun Sep 7 13:00:12 2003
Date: Sun, 7 Sep 2003 10:58:09 -0500 (CDT)
From: Bob Corbett <>
To: Haiti mailing list <>
Subject: 16662: (Arthur) Activist group questions support for new Haitian industrial free zone (fwd)


Activist group questions support for new Haitian industrial free zone

Caribbean Update, Friday 5 September 2003

LONDON: The British-based Haiti Support Group wants a new industrial free zone near the Haitian town of Ouanaminthe close to the border with the Dominican Republic to be scrapped because of major environmental concerns that it says will eventually worsen the plight of the people there.

The Haiti Support Group, an activist non-government organization, is questioning why the World Bank is supporting the new free zone.

Since April 2002, when the presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic announced plans to construct a new industrial zone on 200 acres of agricultural land on the Maribahoux Plain in north-east Haiti, civil society organizations have been protesting against it.

Opponents of the zone say the site is not only one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the whole of Haiti, but is also adjacent to environmentally vulnerable border zones.

These objections have been ignored by the Haitian government, and now it appears that they are being ignored by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), The Haiti Support Group said in a press statement Friday.

The IFC is preparing to lend the Dominican apparel company, Group M, US$3 million specifically to help it build garment assembly factories on the Maribahoux Plain.

In August the first factory opened, and villagers from the surrounding area have begun to arrive in the main town, Ouanaminthe, in search of employment.

There is already talk of a housing shortage. With no regulation or planning, the growth of shanty-town developments is inevitable, the Group said.

The predictable result of this unregulated urban explosion will be a further reduction in the amount of land available for food production; a massive increase in the felling of trees for charcoal production; and a destructive accumulation of untreated human and commercial waste, it said.

The Group’s concerns have been voiced as the Sixth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) wraps up in Havana.

In July, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned that more than 3.8 million people are short of food in Haiti. The UNCCD has already flagged the Haiti/Dominican Republic border zone as an area vulnerable to desertification.