SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dominican President Luis Abinader spoke before the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Sept. 20 to defend the measures his government has taken in response to the construction of an illegal water transfer canal being carried out in northeast Haiti. If completed, the canal would draw water from the Dajabon River, violating a Dominican-Haitian border treaty dating from the 1920s.
Article 10 of the Tratado de paz, amistad y arbitraje (Treaty of peace, friendship, and arbitration), signed between the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti on Feb. 20, 1929, establishes that, “in cases where rivers or other watercourses begin in one state’s territory before entering the territory of the other or serve as boundaries between the two states, both High Contracting Parties agree neither to do nor to consent to any work likely to change the flow of such watercourses or alter the products of the sources thereof.”
Faced with an internationally wrongful act taking place on a section of the river located in Haitian territory, the Dominican government took certain measures last week, the most forceful of which was closing its border with Haiti on Friday, Sept. 15. “This is to guarantee our security and national interest, as well as to protect our rivers, environment, and agricultural production,” the Dominican president explained to his counterparts at the United Nations.
During his speech, Abrinader stated that “this project was never officially communicated to the Dominican government, nor was documentation provided regarding its size, environmental impact, or final beneficiaries.” According to Dominican authorities, the analyses they have been able to carry out indicate that the construction threatens the water supplies of hundreds of Dominican and Haitian farming families living downstream from the canal site.
In his speech, President Abinader also explained other important negative impacts that could result from this illegal construction project. “This project could cause flooding in the CODEVI (manufacturing) industrial park, located 300 meters downstream from the canal site, endangering its 19,000 Haitian workers. It could also flood parts of the border cities of Dajabon and Juana Mendez (located about 300 km northwest of Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital), threatening their inhabitants. As if that weren’t enough, it would also have harmful ecological effects on the Saladillo Lagoon, one of the Dominican Republic’s main wetlands.”
The Dajabon River travels about 55 km to its mouth in Manzanillo Bay. Of that length, only 2 km cross into Haitian territory. That section is where Haiti is seeking to build the canal. The Dominican president recalled that, when news of the project became known in 2021, his government repeatedly requested the Haitian authorities “stop the unilateral and illegal construction of this canal.”
When speaking before the United Nations, the president reiterated that, despite the measures taken by his government, the Dominican Republic does not desire or seek confrontation with the Haitian people. “But, we are faced with uncontrollable actors who are perpetuating insecurity in Haiti for their own interests and who are now working against the stability of their own government and the security of their water resources,” Abinader stated.
A regional threat
The Dominican president emphasized that his government has been warning Haiti about the measures it implemented last week since Abinader’s inauguration in August 2020; his speech before the UN General Assembly two years ago focused on the same issue. After stating that Haiti is not only suffering from an environmental tragedy, but also from the kind of political and social instability that could become a regional threat, Abinader reminded all those present that “we have long been warning that Haiti’s situation could cross its national borders to become a destabilizing factor in the region. This is why this community of nations must, once and for all, declare the Haiti issue one of its highest priorities and begin ongoing monitoring.”
In the last three years, the Dominican government has called upon the international community to intervene to help Haiti solve its problems. This may begin to advance following U.S. President Joe Biden’s speech before the Assembly at the beginning of the week, which urged the UN Security Council to authorize an international security mission in Haiti - something Abinader firmly supports.
“What is happening in Haiti is a breakdown of public order by criminal elements with no political or ideological foundation, so responding to the Haitian authorities’ request for help by sending a multinational force is in line with the spirit and the letter of the United Nations Charter, as well as this organization’s mandate to uphold international law to guarantee peace,” stated the president of the Dominican Republic.
Abinader concluded his speech with another message of solidarity with the Haitian people, “without forgetting that our main responsibility is to defend the interests of Dominicans. This is how we have always acted, this is how we act, and rest assured, this is how we will continue to act, because there is not and never will be a Dominican solution to a Haitian problem.”