Bahía de las Águilas, a natural attraction located in the earthquake-prone Enriquillo region where local mayors consider disaster risk reduction is essential to supporting the growth of tourism. Photo by Matt Hinsa
By Humberto Jaime
Panama, 23 July 2012 - Concern about earthquakes and tsunamis brought together 33 Mayors in the Dominican Republic this month to express their support for the UNISDR “Making Cities Resilient” Campaign and to demand budgetary support from central government for disaster risk reduction measures in their cities and towns.
The Dominican Republic has experienced three earthquakes measuring five on the Richter scale so far this year and one of the country’s most promising tourist areas is vulnerable to the "Enriquillo Fault" which crosses the south of the island into Haiti.
The towns of Santa Cruz de Barahona (pop. 138,000) and Villa Central (pop. 3,200) signed up to the Making Cities Resilient Campaign at a disaster risk reduction forum for municipal governments entitled "The Enriquillo Region is Preparing to Reduce its Risk to Earthquake and Tsunamis" which was opened by Ricardo Mena, Head of the UNISDR Regional Office for the Americas with a video message.
He stated: “At present over 1,050 municipalities around the world and 160 in Latin America and the Caribbean are participating in the Campaign, aiming to reduce the loss of life due to disasters caused by natural hazards and to build the resilience of cities so that they can be better prepared and can better cope with the potential problems caused by disasters.”
The Mayors called on the central government to provide them a budget for disaster risk reduction and more effective decentralization to allow them to take appropriate action at the local level.
Octavio Suberví Nin, Mayor of Santa Cruz de Barahona, also announced the creation of a Municipal Risk Management Unit with the support of the European Union and Plan International.
Mayor Nin said: “In a region like the Enriquillo which is committed to tourism for economic growth, it is important to position ourselves internationally as a safe and resilient city. We all benefit from this. In addition to launching the Municipal Risk Management Unit we will train firefighters and civil defence in post-earthquake search and rescue.”
The Enriquillo region is home to wonderful natural attractions such as Bahia de las Aguilas and Cabo Rojo, Lagunas de Oviedo and Lake Enriquillo which is the lowest point in the Caribbean and one of the few saltwater lakes in the world inhabited by crocodiles. Major plans are in the pipeline for the further development of tourism infrastructure in the region.
There are now five municipalities from the Dominican Republic which are members of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign. The others are Bani, Sabana de la Mar and San Francisco de Macoris which joined the campaign last year.
Aura Saldana, Mayor of Sabana de la Mar, explained the importance of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign: “It provides a platform for local governments to coordinate with other stakeholders to ensure that our municipalities are prepared for disasters and have the capacity to return to normal as soon as possible.”