Drought or irresponsibility? / Fernando Damaso

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For several days now the national TV has been reporting on the effects of the drought in the eastern provinces, noting the deaths of thousands of cattle and the weakening of many thousands more. In the municipality of Calixto García in Holguín Province alone, over three thousand cattle have already died and thousands of others, according to the images shown, were only skin and bones, due to their emaciated condition, harbinger of the worst.

The drought is every year, from November to April. Maybe in the last years, due to climate change, it has worsened. The farmer always used forecasts to avoid or mitigate its effects.

Fifty years ago our ranchers also faced it and, given that they were cattle owners, they took every possible measure to ensure they were fed, with the silage in the silos saved from tender green grass cut in the spring, to which they added molasses and water, or with other methods to resolve the water problem, such as windmills used to extract ground water.

For them it was an economic and human problem, affecting both their pocketbooks and prestige. As owners of their herds, they were primarily responsible for them and felt and acted accordingly.

Today, the small livestock owners avoid killing their cattle despite the drought. The problem with the cattle is that, in one way or another, they belong to the State. As here ownership is generic and irresponsibility is diluted between the manager, the Party organizations and the Young Communist League (UJC), the union and so on up the ladder, the Delegate of Agriculture and the whole administrative and political structure that follows, the ones who pay for the inefficiency are the poor cattle and the citizens who, for years, see no beef in their diet. In a country where sacrificing a cow, even one you yourself own, is considered a crime if it is not approved by the authorities, how can we understand these mass deaths.

Is it so difficult to create reserves of food and drinking water for when the drought comes? Why, if it is a regular annual phenomenon, which complicates the last months of the dry season, aren’t the cattle in danger moved to unaffected territories?

It seems that fifty-six (56) years of tripping over the same stone have been for nothing. And then, thundering, they would have us believe that socialism can be prosperous and sustainable.

25 April 2014

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2 Responses to Drought or irresponsibility? / Fernando Damaso

  1. omar fundora says:


    According to reports from the National Institute of Water Resources (INRH), Cuba increased its capacity from 48 million cubic metres in 13 reservoirs in 1959 to almost nine billion cubic metres today. In addition to these surface water reserves, the country has three billion cubic metres of underground water reserves.

    In recent years, the Cuban government has revived plans that were interrupted by the severe economic crisis of the 1990s, hoping to find a long-term solution to water shortages with engineering works in the eastern and central regions to transfer water from rainy mountain regions to drier areas.

    The strategy includes the construction of reservoirs, canals and pipelines, as well as more than 80 km of mountain tunnels. Once completed, the distribution network will benefit at least nine of the country’s 15 provinces. The programme is considered vital for the eastern region, due to its scarce groundwater reserves.

    “This is adaptation on a major scale, and at a high economic cost. It is also necessary for society to accept that drought is here to stay, and that people must prepare and find solutions, such as having recipients for storing water, or if they have animals, storing forage and having places to move their livestock,” Carlos Rodríguez, a land-use planning and environmental expert, commented to IPS.

    While he noted that Santiago and other parts of eastern Cuba are among the most vulnerable to drought, he said water shortages are also a problem in western provinces such as Havana and parts of Pinar del Río, 160 km from the capital.

    Santiago, a city of about half a million, has six reservoirs. But its water supply was inadequate for decades, and entire generations grew up carrying water to their homes. “Piped water was available every six to 30 days,” INRH official Gerardo Linares told reporters.

    The population grew and water sources became even more insufficient. Moreover, the city’s old, deteriorated water grid presented another obstacle for piping water to people’s homes. But this year, Santiago’s residents have a modern new aqueduct and water purification plant.

    “Our quality of life has taken an enormous leap forward. Now we have water almost every day from our taps. In the past, water would flow every 15 or even 20 days, and taking a shower was a luxury,” Dip Leiva, who lives in Santiago’s José Martí district, built in the 1960s, told IPS.

    In Havana, water distribution is uneven: in some neighbourhoods water is always available, while in others, such as Roque’s, there is running water every other day, but only in the very early morning. “Our water tanks aren’t always filled up all the way, and sometimes we end up waiting for water that never comes,” Roque told IPS.

    According to official figures, 10.7 million of Cuba’s 11.2 million inhabitants have access to drinking water. Water is delivered to the homes of 8.4 million people, while 1.7 million have piped water less than 200 metres from their homes, and about 600,000 receive water from tanker trucks, known here as pipas.

    “We have 2,411 human settlements, which are supplied with water through 22,326 km of piping,” equivalent to 14 times the island’s circumference, INRH official Caridad Díaz said on a television programme broadcast late last year.

    However, the drought and the poor state of the water pipe system in Havana, population 2.2 million, are conspiring against stable distribution. Water authorities have acknowledged that about half the water pumped nationwide does not reach its destination, due to leaks in the pipes.

    The government plan for the “updating” of the economic model includes prioritising and expanding a programme to rehabilitate the country’s water distribution networks, including the sale of fittings and accessories to the public. The plan also includes the mandatory regulation of metered consumption and rates that depend on consumption, both in the state and private sectors.

    Climate experts have warned that droughts in Cuba have become more frequent and intense in recent decades. The rainy season in Cuba begins in May and stretches to October. But the water supply is largely replenished by the tropical storms that bring intense rains, although they also frequently cause destructive flooding and gale force winds as well. A major state project is aimed at using mountain rainfall to supply water to farms and the population. The government is investing large sums in the renovation of the country’s rundown water system, which has compromised household supplies, and in a major water project in nine of the country’s 14 provinces, involving dams, canals and tunnels. The project is aimed at making use of the rainfall and rivers in the mountains in eastern and central Cuba to counteract the effects of drought and meet the needs of the population and farmers.

    A severe drought directly affected two million people and more than 900 villages and towns in Cuba in 2004 and 2005, while 2009 had the fourth lowest rainfall total in 109 years.


  2. omar fundora says:

    The credit rating issued by major international rating agencies such as Fitch, Moody’s, and
    Standard and Poor’s is a key variable affecting a sovereign’s or a firm’s access to capital markets.
    Risk ratings not only affect investment decisions in the international bond and loan markets, but
    they also affect allocation of foreign direct investment and portfolio equity flows. The allocation
    of performance-based official aid is also increasingly being linked to sovereign rating. In Cuba’s case, even though the credit rating has been lowered form a Caa1 to a Caa2, it is not as problematic as it might be for other countries that are richer than Cuba. Cuba has the distinction of having the same credit rating as Ukraine with this devaluation. In the case of Cuba, it is do to the situation in Venezuela and the slow pace of economic improvement. This is why the negotiations with the Paris Club countries is extremely important. Foreign Direct Investments (FDI)…Cuba needs 2.5Billion dollars per year in FDI…..The Paris Club negotiations can help Cuba reduce the barter system it has with Venezuela if some of Cuba’s debt is forgiven by the member countries to the Paris Club.
    Although it is still a long way off, any deal with the Paris Club would significantly reduce Cuba’s debt, improve its reputation in financial markets and allow it to issue new debt. In other words the risk is high for investments in Cuba, but, with China in the mix with loans and the new investment law plus in 2016 the currency unification, Cuba should meet or come very close to the 2.5 Billion dollars/year it needs in FDI.

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