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The Cuban PA Towards Sustainable Development

The Cuban PA Towards Sustainable Development


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By Dr. José A. Díaz Duque

For Third World countries, the challenge of achieving sustainability requires major political, economic and social transformations. For Cuba, these transformations are, in principle, a fact materialized for many years.

INTRODUCTION

The analyzes on the evolution of the Cuban environment have to be located in a historical context that considers centuries of colonial exploitation, followed by almost six decades of neocolonial domination by the United States of America.

The wild and unnecessary extinction of the Cuban aborigines, the intense and voracious destruction of the forests, the unlimited erosion of our soils, are some of the ecological debts that they have pending with the Cuban nation, the Spanish metropolis and the Yankee empire.


The deforestation rate in Cuba continued to rise for more than 400 years and only reversed, definitively, after 1959. In the period between 1492 and 1902, the forest cover was reduced from 95% to 54%; in the next 57 years it reached a dramatic figure of 14%, with an average annual deforestation of 70 thousand hectares of natural forests, sacrificed for economic purposes and due to the insatiable voracity of the growing sugar market. [1]

Since 1959, Cuba has faced a sovereign struggle against the consequences of underdevelopment, based on equity and social justice and with an authentic projection of sustainability. Despite the complex circumstances of the world today and all the efforts of US imperialism, Cuba proudly shows relevant successes in different spheres, including the environment.

For Third World countries, the challenge of achieving sustainability requires major political, economic and social transformations. The idea of ​​sustainability is intrinsic to the socialist principles that sustain our revolutionary model.

Evolution Of The Cuban Environment.

Cuba's environmental record is internationally recognized for the concrete actions that have been carried out to improve the unfavorable situation encountered by the Revolution in 1959. This is especially important and relevant in the case of forest resources, due to its determining influence on biological diversity and the state of waters and soils. [2]

The eradication of extreme poverty, an achievement that is based on the very foundations of the revolutionary process, is an essential condition to achieve environmental sustainability, given in the first place, because extreme poverty and a healthy environment cannot coexist.

The Cuban State has declared national sovereignty over natural resources and has promoted an active process of recovery and protection of these, having as its center the human being and the comprehensive satisfaction of their material, spiritual, educational, cultural and aesthetic needs, and incorporating to the whole society in the attention and solution of environmental problems.

The creation in 1994 of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment gave rise to a significant boost in environmental policy and management at the national level. This transcendental institutional change, in turn, imposed the need to review the country's strategic and regulatory frameworks on environmental matters.

Over the past 15 years, profound changes have continued to develop in the economic-social reality of the country, in line with the processes that took place since the early 1990s, all with a marked influence on national environmental policy. . In the same way, they intensified and deepened
the relationships between the sector dedicated to research, scientific knowledge, technological innovation and the protection and sustainable use of natural resources.

International dynamics have been equally intense and, as regards the environment and sustainable development, it has had its most relevant expression in the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg in 2002.

The current situation demands a comprehensive conception of sustainable development, understood as a process where policies for economic, social, scientific, technological, fiscal development, raising the quality of life of the population, commerce, energy, agriculture, industry, preparation of the country for defense and others, are intertwined with the demands of environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources, within a framework of justice and social equity.

Despite all the work carried out by the State and the Government and by numerous institutions, agencies and organizations, a set of environmental problems still persist that have a complex and dynamic interrelation, affecting the quantity and quality of our natural resources in their link with the economic and social development of the country. [3]

The identification of the main environmental problems in Cuba has been carried out taking into account their impact and the scale of affectation, based on the following factors:

The impact of large or significant areas of the national territory. Alterations to the health and quality of life of the population. The economic consequences. The effect on ecosystems and biological resources.

From the analysis of the factors expressed, the Main Environmental Problems of Cuba are identified:

• DEGRADATION OF SOILS.
• AFFECTATIONS ON FOREST COVERAGE.
• CONTAMINATION.
• LOSS OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY.
• LACK OF WATER.

Soil degradation, as a historical result of the misuse and management of land by man, is the main environmental problem in Cuba. The anthropic factor led to the development of tillage technologies that have accelerated the process of erosion, salinization and compaction in different regions of the country. Other processes and edaphoclimatic conditions act together in areas prone to intensify the evolution towards aridity. Salinity and sodicity have increased due to irrigation with water whose salt concentrations exceeded the permissible values ​​for the soil and the crop in question. There are other degradative actions not considered as a limiting factor, such as open-pit mining and loan areas for construction materials, which, although they act in a smaller area, are important due to their high impact. At present it is considered that about 60% of the soils of Cuba are affected by at least one degradative factor. Erosive processes affect more than four million hectares of soils in the country, becoming the factor with the greatest weight. [4]

Although in recent years it has been possible to constantly increase the forest cover, reaching a forest index at the end of 2004 of 24.23%, the consequences of hundreds of years of irrational exploitation of the forests of Cuba still persist, which they practically extinguished our most valuable forest resources. The greatest effects on forest cover at present are due to forest fires, although irrational use of forests for energy purposes, inadequate management of natural forests, quality problems with the country's seed sources, insufficient protection of some hydroregulatory strips of rivers and reservoirs, the limited range of forest species used in reforestation and the insufficient results in combating invasive plant species that threaten the survival of our forests. [5]

There are different causes that have motivated the contamination of waters, soils and the atmosphere. Among them, the concentration of industrial facilities in urban areas stands out, which determines the use of surface currents as receivers of raw or partially treated waste, which frequently reaches the coastal area. The use of obsolete technologies, technological indiscipline, as well as the non-introduction of Cleaner Production practices also have a negative influence. Even taking into account the annual investment plans for the environment, the financial resources for the minimization, treatment, utilization and reuse of waste from agri-food, industrial, tourism, hospital and domestic activities are insufficient. Systematic evaluations carried out in the last five years indicate that there has been a reduction in the biodegradable organic load available to terrestrial and coastal waters, mainly in industrial point sources, which has been possible due to an effective compliance with the associated economic plan. to the environment. These same evaluations are also indicating that the greatest negative incidence of pollutant load to mitigate and solve in the coming years is that coming from urban areas and the domestic and mixed residuals that are generated. [6]

The island characteristics of the country, which have fostered the evolution of a particular biodiversity and with very high values ​​of endemism, condition both the fragility and vulnerability of some of our ecosystems. In conjunction with this, various anthropic processes have caused a continuous process of loss of our biological diversity, which is expressed in a more critical way, in fragile ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves, rainforests and the remaining forests or shrubs of the which was the original coverage of Cuba. [7]

Even taking into account the substantive Cuban hydraulic development, which in just over forty years has made it possible to raise our reservoir capacities from 48 to more than 9600 million cubic meters of water, the lack of water remains to supply all economic and social needs. and environmental, aggravated by the occurrence of natural phenomena (prolonged droughts, variations in the seasonal regime, etc.) and others induced by anthropic causes (saline intrusion, overexploitation, pollution, etc.). Cuban hydraulic development has made it possible to reach around 1,200 cubic meters of water per inhabitant per year for all uses, however, this is insufficient and responds to a situation of water stress according to recognized international classifications. [8]

Environmental Legal Framework.

In the Cuban legal system, the normative provisions that regulate the conservation, protection, improvement and transformation of the environment, as well as the rational use of resources, are characterized by having different ranges that go from laws to technical standards, and by having a dispersion originated in the legislative power that is granted to each one of the Central State Administration Bodies that are in turn governing specific natural resources.

Law No. 81 on the Environment, approved by the National Assembly of People's Power in July 1997, constitutes the basic element of Cuban environmental legislation, and becomes a framework law for all environmental activities and the rational use of resources. natural.

Among the objectives of the law is the creation of a legal context that favors the projection and development of socioeconomic activities in a manner compatible with the protection of the environment and to promote citizen action in that sense, based on greater awareness and education through different avenues.

Other important environmental legal bodies are the Forestry Law No. 85 and the Decree Laws, Decrees and Resolutions that regulate activities related to protected areas, coastal ecosystems, environmental violations and procedures for conducting environmental impact assessments. , among others.

Another important sign in the process of approval of laws is the inclusion in them of an environmental dimension, as is the case with the Mining Law (1994), which introduces for the first time the concept of environmental impact assessment as a tool for environmental management, the Tax System Law (1994), which incorporates a tax on the environment and rational use of natural resources, and the Foreign Investment Law (1995), which introduces a whole chapter on the environment.

All this legal framework is completed with a multitude of lower-ranking provisions and regulations and various technical standards.

International Legal Instruments in the Environmental Sphere.
Obligations of the Cuban State.

Cuba's international environmental policy is drawn up and developed in accordance with national strategic priorities and the general principles approved at the Rio Summit.

The country has joined important International Multilateral Environmental Agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Protocol on Biosafety, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, the Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought, the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention) and its Protocols, the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, among others.

Cuba maintains close working relationships with different United Nations bodies such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the United Nations Educational Organization, Science and Culture (UNESCO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

At the regional level, the country is closely linked to the activities of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), as well as the Caribbean Environment Program (PAC) and the Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Cuban Vision for Sustainability

The idea of ​​sustainability implies an extremely general and broad term, which, although it has a somewhat longer history, is recognized as having reached its widest dissemination with the Report of the World Commission for Environment and Development (1987), known as the Bruntland Commission.


This report called "Our Common Future", seeks to reconcile the demands of ideas about development and the environment, through its union in the term "sustainable development".

Subsequently, the term is enshrined in the Declaration of Rio de Janeiro, in particular in its Principle Three, which refers to the so-called intergenerational equity, that is, the idea that current development must act without prejudice to needs and options of development of future generations and in Principle Four, which refers to the fact that environmental issues have to be considered within the development agenda and not separately.

For developing countries, the challenge of achieving sustainability requires major political, economic and social transformations.
For Cuba, these transformations are, in principle, a fact materialized for many years, since the idea of ​​sustainability is intrinsic to the socialist principles that sustain our model of economic and social development.

An element that makes the difference and characterizes Cuba's vision on this issue, points to the advantages that Socialism as a system offers for the development of an effective environmental policy.

The eradication of extreme poverty, an achievement that is based on the very foundations of the revolutionary process, is an essential condition to achieve environmental sustainability, given in the first place, because extreme poverty and a healthy environment cannot coexist. The solution of this contradiction is one of the main achievements that Cuba can show the world.

The search for greater efficiency in production processes, the gradual introduction of cleaner production practices, work towards the use of alternative sources of energy, the use of biological products in agriculture and the trend of that sector towards agriculture sustainable, are just some samples of the reconciliation of the needs of development with the requirements of sustainability in the current circumstances, achieved on the basis of the technical and scientific qualification of our people.

Collective and non-exclusive access to fundamental social services, a guarantee of equity inherent to sustainability, continues to be a firm bulwark of revolutionary conquests and allows a solid social base to be established to achieve the goals of sustainable development.

The current situation demands a comprehensive conception of sustainable development, understood as a process where economic, scientific-technological, fiscal development policies, raising the quality of life of the population, commerce, energy, agriculture, industry, preparation of the country for defense and others are intertwined with the demands of environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources, within a framework of justice and social equity.

The concept of sustainable development should be further enhanced within national policies, promoting the integration of the environmental dimension in its relationship with economic and social development, all in order to highlight the viability of the Cuban model, based on Socialism, to establish itself as a truly sustainable society.

Main Elements of the Cuban Environmental Policy

In 1997, the National Environmental Strategy was approved by the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers, and from it the Branch and Territorial Environmental Strategies were elaborated, constituting the basis of Cuban environmental policy and the guide for the execution of national environmental management. by identifying the main environmental problems.

In subsequent years, Specific Environmental Strategies are also developed, such as the National Strategy for Environmental Education, the National Strategy for Biological Diversity and its Action Plan, which provide unique developments in these areas.

At the institutional level, the creation, in April 1994, of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment stands out, replacing the National Commission for the Environment and the Rational Use of Natural Resources (COMARNA), thus placing the institutional framework environment at the level of a ministry, an international trend aimed at prioritizing the attention to environmental problems, concentrating sufficient regulatory and executive force in a global organization and separating environmental competencies from productive and service organizations.

This Ministry has been developing environmental care structures at the provincial and municipal levels, complementing those that from the central level are in charge of policy, management, regulation, research, and environmental services.

Since the creation of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment in 1994, among other relevant instruments, the environmental impact assessment, the environmental license, the state environmental inspection, the environmental recognition system and various economic instruments have been introduced, among which include the National Environment Fund.

The environmental institutional framework is completed by diverse organizational structures such as the National Council of Hydrographic Basins and the National Commission of the Turquino Manatí Plan, which are based on the concept of structuring environmental management around an ecosystem as a functional unit.

With the creation of the National Council of Watersheds, eight Councils of Watersheds of National Interest (Cuyaguateje, Ariguanabo, Almendares-Vento, Zaza, Hanabanilla, Cauto, Guantánamo-Guaso and Toa), 14 Provincial Watershed Councils and 3 Specific Tips.

On the other hand, with the creation of the National Commission of the Turquino Manatí Plan, the Mountain Bodies emerged, units dedicated to strengthening environmental work in mountain ecosystems.

One of the most notable results of environmental policy for the period is that of having achieved a genuine interlinkage with economic development policies.

A clear political will of the State and the Government has marked the path of this integration, which has required that both those responsible for environmental policies and those in charge of the main development plans, review their concepts and languages, to converge, equally the way it has happened in the international arena, in the concept of sustainable development.

An essential role in this regard has been played by the Ministry of Economy and Planning. Thus, since 1997 the Investment Plan began to identify those aimed at the environment, which has been behaving in stable terms in terms of quantity, but in constant qualitative improvement.

A better world is possible

We live in a complex world subject to multiple threats, among which those of an environmental nature emerge with particular force. Although the objectivity of globalizing processes is recognized, they are still asymmetric and their impacts on the environment are the subject of discussion, and if the neoliberal model is involved, then their harmful effects are clearly identified.

In the particular case of Cuba, these global circumstances are compounded by the financial, economic and commercial blockade imposed by the United States of America more than four decades ago, which in turn, determines that all of them cannot be undertaken with the necessary speed. the actions that the political will of the country has drawn.

Nor does Cuba escape the effects of the inadequate patterns of capitalist development that weigh on the environment on a global scale. Repeated and new drought events, combined with high rates of evaporation, cause the depletion of soils and the decrease of groundwater reserves. Sometimes, even, the strong stresses exerted on the vegetation and the climate in general, are much more aggravated, when the drought is interrupted by torrential rains that are the cause of intense erosive processes in the soils. To this scenario are also added the frequent effects produced by tropical cyclones.

In order to harmonize the complexities of the globalization process with the particular difficulties that external factors impose on the country's development, while preserving the environment and sustainably using resources, it is necessary to move forward in the 21st century with particular sensitivity, so that the best of world environmentalist thought and its adjustment to the Cuban reality can be extracted.

The vision of Cuban environmental policy focuses on sustainable economic and social development that is supported by three basic pillars: social equity, economic growth, and environmental protection. In the materialization of this vision there are important challenges that must also be considered, both internally and externally.

The main goal perspective of Cuban environmental policy towards the future is of great complexity, since it consists of avoiding the repetition of errors of the inadequate processes of industrialization undertaken by the today "first world", so that economic development is promoted in the that the transition is as direct as possible, towards forms compatible with the environment, on the basis of the principles outlined and the use of the appropriate instruments.

The underdeveloped world cannot aspire to "develop" by repeating the wasteful and consumerist models of the industrialized world, for which several planets like ours would be required. The key to the matter lies not in renouncing economic growth, but in providing it with a harmonious and ethical character, which allows us to reach a truly sustainable society.

Cuba will maintain and defend its socialist model of development, which will allow it to build an economically prosperous, socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

The triumph of the Revolution and the adoption of Socialism as a way of development, create particular advantages for the implementation of an effective environmental policy, in particular, due to the decisive role of the State and the advantages represented by a planned economy with the capacity to project effectively. harmonic and in the long term the use of natural resources.

The ethical-social conception of Socialism, the supportive environment that it engenders and the conceptual integrity in the functioning of the Government, as well as the advantages in the ordering of the uses that social property offers, are factors that have a favorable impact on the protection of the environment. and in the rationality of the use of natural resources.

Under Cuban conditions, environmental policy tends to be part of a system that manifests itself in a manner consistent with development strategies and is therefore part of a policy for sustainable economic and social development.

* Dr. Díaz Duque
Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment
Intervention in the V Convention on Environment and Development

References:

[1] National Assembly of People's Power, “An unserious document, which
you have to take it very seriously ”. Political Editor, Havana, 2004, p.
67-68.
[2] Ibid., P. 68.
[3] Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, "Strategy
National Environmental 2005/2010 ”. Version March 14, 2005.
[4] Ibid., P. 16.
[5] Ibid., P. 18.
[6] Ibid, p. 19.
[7] Ibid., P. twenty.
[8] Ibid., P. 22.


Video: What Is Sustainable Development? (July 2022).


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