SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
December 15, 2016
Dominica Climate Resilience Explorations
Ship’s Heading & Speed
Dominica was great! We had so much fun touring the island, cities, and rainforests! Of our two days ashore, one was spent exploring on our own, and the other was spent on the planned excursion. The individuals of A Watch traveled far and wide on Dominica: from Roseau to Portsmouth, Cabrits to Toucarie Bay, and even the north shore. We swam in a gorgeous waterfall, hiked a nature trail, and forged our way into a freshwater swimming hole. With bellies full of fresh Caribbean oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, coconuts, avocados, and pineapples, we sit down to reflect.
As a part of the wastewater management team, I kept a keen eye out for any sewage dumping. For the most part, all areas I went to had bathrooms and running water; however, the coastlines were littered with trash and other pollutants. At the beaches we swam at, I was struggling to locate the source of these pollutants. I eventually found it in a sort of drainage system under the road, but it had no indication of what came out of that pipe. I did, however, notice the turbidity of the water all along the coast. Coastal turbidity was especially apparent when we were snorkeling, and it was really a nuisance in some spots. It was impossible to know what exactly was making the water so cloudy, but it was hard to keep from dwelling on the probable causes like fertilizers and possibly human waste. Visible sewage treatment infrastructure was minimal, although there were gutters along the main road in Portsmouth to drain stormwater and other runoff. A fair amount of trash had also found its way into these gutters, but it didn't appear that any sewage emptied into them. It makes sense that there wasn't much sewage infrastructure to be seen, as most people in Portsmouth have septic systems according to our research. On shore, it appears that these are sufficient, but the turbidity of the water hints that increasing the capacity and effectiveness of the system would be beneficial.
From the moment we cruised into Prince Rupert Bay, we began to catch glimpses of the true nature of fishing, the natural resource usage in Dominica. Just 30 feet from where we lay at anchor a man in a tiny, wobbly wooden boat was casting out lines in a prime example of the artisanal fishing we'd learned so much about. On shore, many restaurants do not have a printed menu; rather, the chef will simply relay to you the catch of the day and how he feels it is best prepared given what else is on hand. Tuna and Mahi Mahi seem to be staples while shallow water reef fish were scarcer, showing the great importance of the deep water fisheries just a few miles offshore. From snorkeling it is evident that while numerous and vibrant, the reefs are already struggling to cope with turbid water and polluting runoff from land, let alone the more serious effects of climate change. Along the streets there were hundreds of different signs, posters, and murals all urging the population to be conscious of their pollution and contributions to climate change, which is hugely reassuring for the future protection of the island's natural resources. I saw potential in this area for more public awareness campaigns relating to conscientious fishing practices and promoting consumption of invasive species such as lionfish.
The first day exploring Dominica, I decided to wonder around the main city and experience part of Dominica's culture and interact with locals. My first glimpse of Dominica after stepping out of our agent's boat was amazing; it was just like home (Puerto Rico). A beautiful paradise behind each building of the coast, small roads to access each place around Portsmouth, and the short rain events that were on and off through the island. Starting my walk to the bus station, I concentrated on looking for resilience of the island to major natural disasters, particularly how they have caught up after Hurricane Erika in 2014. Previously, I heard from our agent that Dominica hasn't started yet to recover from the hurricane, they are just trying to work day by day with the after effects of the storm; and that story became my reality. When I stepped in the small town of Portsmouth, buildings were not in the condition you would expect. After I got to the bus station and was on my way to Roseau, I had a wonderful panoramic view of the nature island, but I noticed something that caught my attention. Judging by the speed of the driver, we had to be on sort of highway, but there weren't any direct roads to the city other than that specific one we were driving on.
Dominica still lacks roads to connect a lot of the mountain villages to the main city. Then we drove around a piece of landslide that contained a piece of street. That made me wonder, how are they managing landslides that impact roads? Are they working for a cost effective solution or just coming up with the cheapest and fastest solution? The island has an exceptional geographic topography that blesses them with a wonderful paradise view to the Atlantic and the Caribbean, but is it also an expensive disadvantage that does not allow them to thrive in their transportation system. I think Dominica doesn't have space right now to focus on their resilience to climate change; they are still working on fully developing to survive and thrive against other economic factors. Considering existing disaster protection measures, seawalls are used in many areas to protect roads and properties from flooding. However, these seawalls seem to have a very limited effect. For example at the east side of Dominica, the waves were already splashing over the seawall of the restaurant where we ate lunch, while it was average sea state and wind conditions. Most of the major roads on the west coast are barely above sea level and so are also endangered by flooding.
Meanwhile, in a lot of places we saw posters that were indicating funding of different projects by foreign institutions. With an efficient structure and action plan, Dominica should have the potential to protect its people and nature from hazards in the future.
Anthony, Anna, Kelsee, James & Bethany