It gives me great pleasure as the Minister of Environment, Rural Modernization and Kalinago Upliftment, to address you today as we come together in celebration of World Rivers Day 2020. World Rivers Day is celebrated every year across the globe and is one of the United Nations’ prime vehicles for encouraging awareness and action to protect our rivers and the habitats around them. This day provides an excellent platform to showcase our many rivers but also to address the critical issues that they face such as pollution, dredging, damming, poaching, and erosion. For Dominica, an island with an abundance of fresh water sources, this day has a special place in our hearts. I believe this is a celebration we should personally adopt every day as our rivers give this island its rich life and provide us with clean, healthy water and food.
With this year’s theme being “Our Watershed in our Communities”, I am encouraging everyone to take time this week to come together for the protection of our rivers whether it be by cleaning up garbage along the banks, planting essential trees or raising awareness about their importance. Within my community at the Ministry of Environment, our agencies have been working hard, especially following Hurricane Maria, to restore our rivers and their habitats. The Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division has worked tirelessly under the reforestation project to replant trees along our riverbanks that were lost in the tropical storms and through deforestation caused by us humans. These activities have also been geared towards educating our fellow Dominicans about the importance of protecting our rivers and the Riparian Forests that surrounds them.
Our Riparian Forests are vital to the safety of our communities. This vegetated area bordering our wetlands form the transition between the aquatic and the terrestrial environment. These forests stop sediments, nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants from contaminating our rivers, lakes, and wetlands which we rely so heavily on for drinking water, to bathe, wash our clothes, and the like. The trees in our Riparian Forests prevent excess water loss from our rivers by shading out the sun so that we may continue to enjoy having so much fresh, clean water for years to come. The shade also keeps the river’s temperature cool so that our fish, crayfish, crabs, and other aquatic life may continue to thrive in a healthy environment. Riparian Forests are important for flood control as they reduce the amount of water entering a river, the speed at which the water flows into it, and their root systems prevent the erosion of our riverbanks.
With the passage of both Tropical Storm Erika and Hurricane Maria, our Riparian Forests were severely damaged and need our help to preserve them. All of us can play an active role in restoring our Riparian Forests by replanting native species along our riverbanks and by giving our riverbanks at least a 50 ft buffer zone free from development. Every tree makes a difference! Furthermore, This World Rivers Day, we are encouraging Communities, Cooperate businesses, NGOs, Service Clubs, Schools and the like. to adopt a river or segments of a river in your community.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Rosalie Bay Resort for leading this initiative by adopting the Rosalie River. Also, I commend the Forestry, Wildlife & Parks Division for their efforts in restoring our natural habitat and fostering a sense of pride amongst us Dominicans as citizens of the Nature Island.
I thank you.