After years of working with the communities reacting to the effects of natural phenomena and the existing vulnerabilities that affect families living in the lower basin of the Ozama River, the Healthy and Sustainable Habitat project was formulated in a participatory manner to respond to the effects of floods, high levels of environmental pollution, landslides, and fires, which are recurrent hazards in these territories. This reality gets complicated every time a tropical wave happens, leaving damage to homes, drinking water services, electricity and solid waste collection.
The main activities carried out were:
Assessments to understand the situation
Formulation of community intervention strategies where local organisations were an important part of the design
Management and monitoring processes
Improvement of 88 homes
Sanitation of 6 glens
Construction of 7 evacuation routes and access roads
Elimination of dozens of landfills
Improvements to drinking water networks and electricity lines
Creation of tool banks (with shovels, picks, wheelbarrows, boots, chainsaws, protective helmets, waterproof layers, machetes, ropes, first aid kits, among other equipment)
Constitution of two risk management committees
Development of a training program.
The main funders were the European Union, MISERIOR, Oxfam, FOCOVIC and SELAVIC. In order to achieve sustainability, the Greater Santo Domingo Community, the National District Council, the Environmental Sanitation Foundations, COPADEBA and DIGEPEP promoted actions that led to the establishment of the decree 260-14 that aims to promote coordinated actions for the development of the Ozama and Isabela basins. The project lasted three years from January 2012 to January 2015.
Our work methodology implies that everything we do is done through the community organisations and existing institutions in the territories. Therefore, processes and projects arise from their work dynamics and their demands for supporting services. It is on the basis of existing capacities and those that can be strengthened in the process that the actions are carried out, taking advantage of existing solidarity networks, volunteers and community workers. Local governments were integrated through the transportation of solid waste, granting permits for the construction work, providing equipment for cleaning and providing personnel through the Environmental Foundations, as well as promoting the consultation process. The activities were coordinated at the general level by a consultation panel in which a representation of the actors involved participated, and at the local level, through the neighbourhood coordinators and the risk management committee.
We work with organisations in very impoverished territories and give priority to young people, people with disabilities and single mothers, who are a priority when developing any action in the communities. In this project, 10% of the population of these neighbourhoods who were living in the highest levels of environmental, territorial, social and economic vulnerability, were identified as beneficiaries.
The representatives of the institutions that work on a permanent basis in risk management, such as the community police, Red Cross and Civil Defence, were integrated into the committees that we created. We also established collaboration agreements with the municipal environmental offices. In this process, some shelters where families are taken when there is a threat of flooding were identified, evaluated and improved. Two committees trained and equipped to monitor and follow up with one representative from each participating neighbourhood were left in place.
Thanks to the advocacy actions developed, the Presidential Commission for the Development of the Ozama and Isabela Basin were created, with the active participation of representatives of community organisations and Ciudad Alternativa, which developed a 15-year strategic plan that is in its third year of execution. So far, the construction of a treatment plant, the sanitation of four large glens and two in progress, the improvement of hundreds of houses, several days of reforestation, and the beginning of the sanitation of the Ozama River have been achieved, as well as the beginning of the integral sanitation of two neighbourhoods, La Ciénaga and Los Guandules, through the project El Nuevo Domingo Savio. Actions are still in force and are being coordinated through the consultation panel that meets every 15 days and has the support of public entities such as CAASD, DIGEPEP and the European Union.
Communities have a positive impact on resilience because the community is aware of the vulnerability of flooding, landslides and hurricanes. They are organised, coordinated with other actors and benefit from a better level of preparedness and response. They have a response and coordination structure with the rescue and civil protection authorities. They maintain training, prevention and clean-up activities. They are aware of the risks in vulnerable areas and work to relocate families at risk through dialogue with the Presidential Commission.
The round table of community representatives with sectorial authorities and coordination with civil protection entities, as well as the platforms of organisations in the territories, highlight the sustainability of the project.
The actions carried out are in line with Law 1-00 of National Development Strategy, Risk Management Law, 176-07 of the municipalities and 64-00 of environment. We have inter-institutional coordination relations with the Cabinet for the Coordination of Social Policies, the Commonwealth of Greater Santo Domingo, the City Councils of Santo Domingo Norte, Este and ADN, the Directorate of Territorial Planning, the Corporation of Aqueducts and Sewerage. We work with them through consultation and the development of technical proposals that dialogue with the responses that public institutions want to carry out in the communities.
The coordination of the community organisations have created an inter-neighbourhood committee at our suggestion to follow up on the issue of risk management and to coordinate with the authorities and public security agencies. Local governments are facilitators of the processes of sanitation with equipment and waste transportation. Resources are very limited given the reality of existing vulnerabilities, as are technical resources. Sources of funding are increasingly scarce and limited.
Currently, we only count one source of funding for risk management, to oversee the next 8 months, if the government complies, providing solutions for the damage caused with the dwellings in four provinces as a consequence of the hurricanes Irma and María. The sustainability of direct actions in the lower Ozama River basin area is very limited at this time, but the government continues to clean up glens, improving housing in vulnerable areas and installing wastewater collection networks, which community organisations are monitoring in collaboration with us, through the Observatory for the Right to the City.
During the implementation of the project, training, awareness and visibility actions were carried out on the benefits of environmental sanitation to mitigate the risks of flooding and landslides, and work was carried out with students in lectures, workshops and camps to raise their awareness and to train them, in coordination with the Ministry of the Environment, local governments and community organisations. The organisations periodically carry out awareness-raising processes on disaster prevention and mitigation issues.