Cuban Envi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy: The Havana Met­ro­pol­i­tan Park Project

May 9, 2002 - 7:00 PM

Yociel Mar­rero Baez
Project Man­ager, Almen­dares River Clean-up/Metropolitan Park of Havana and Gen­eral Edi­tor, Siem­pre Verde Bul­letin (pub­lished by Havana Met­ro­pol­i­tan Park)

Yociel Mar­rero helps coor­di­nate a major project to clean up the Amen­dares River and develop Met­ro­pol­i­tan Park. This river runs through the cen­ter of Havana. One half of Havana’s sewage flows into this river and only a small per­cent­age of the waste is treated, cre­at­ing a pub­lic health haz­ard, par­tic­u­larly for the com­mu­ni­ties that live along the river. The river cleanup project is part of a larger pro­gram to develop an envi­ron­men­tal Met­ro­pol­i­tan Park in the 400 square kilo­me­ters that com­prise the river’s water­shed, from its mouth at the Atlantic Ocean inland for seven kilo­me­ters. The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Park, a long-time dream of city plan­ners, includes plans for refor­esta­tion, organic agri­cul­ture, veg­e­tar­ian restau­rants, and the devel­op­ment of a cen­ter for envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion, recre­ation, and other com­mu­nity activ­i­ties. The team, which includes soci­ol­o­gists as well as sci­en­tists, has devoted con­sid­er­able time to rais­ing envi­ron­men­tal aware­ness among the peo­ple who live in the area, hold­ing edu­ca­tional work­shops, and set­ting up com­mu­nity based water mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem.
The Almen­dares River is a cen­tral fea­ture of Greater Havana’s Met­ro­pol­i­tan Park (700ha.of area). The last 10Km of the river pass through Met­ro­pol­i­tan Park. The river was one of the impor­tant rea­sons influ­enc­ing the loca­tion of the City of Havana. In present days, the river serves a large num­ber of users, and pro­vides a spec­trum of envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices. Unfor­tu­nately, it has been abused and overused for long time, result­ing in sub­stan­tial degra­da­tion and loss of envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices. The river is 49.8 km long with 254.6 km of trib­u­taries and it drains a water­shed of 402 km. Indus­trial efflu­ent rep­re­sent flows of 70 000 l/sec whereas domes­tic efflu­ents con­sti­tute flows of 154 000 l/sec or 31.1% and 68.9% respec­tively. There are 35 indus­tries along the Almen­dares river. Many of these indus­tries and other facil­i­ties dis­charge directly into the river with lit­tle or no treat­ment. Through­out its course, the river receives a large sed­i­ment load which is due to defor­esta­tion occur­ring along the banks of the river. Havana’s only sewage treat­ment plant became largely inca­pac­i­tated sev­eral years ago; another unfin­ished plant awaits com­ple­tion. The engi­neers in this project favor the instal­la­tion of many small-scale treat­ment plants and bio­log­i­cal meth­ods of con­trol, but they need mate­r­ial and infor­ma­tional assis­tance to move for­ward. The sci­en­tific team is also work­ing to con­vince fac­tory man­age­ment along the river to either relo­cate or to invest in new tech­nol­ogy that is more envi­ron­men­tally benign.