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Haiti’s Pic Macaya on fire, menacing entire Caribbean region

Fire at the UNESCO site threatens the region’s ecosystems and Haitian livelihoods


Pic Macaya Brigade
Members of the Pic Macaya Brigade which has been on fire about a month. Photo by Ulysse Jean Chenet

PORT-AU-PRINCE — An environmental protection organization said that a major disaster is looming for the ecosystems of the Americas and the Caribbean because of a monthlong fire that broke out at Pic Macaya in Haiti. 

Officials are already deploring harmful consequences for Haiti’s Great South region from the continuous burning at the national park, home to a mountain peak by the same name.

The president of Medic Haiti, Ulysse Jean Chenet, said Haitian officials must declare a state of environmental emergency to save Pic Macaya and help the inhabitants in the southern peninsula of the country.

“This ecological disaster exceeds the technical and financial capacity of the Haitian state,” said Chenet after a visit last week to assess the impacts of the fire. “We need active international solidarity to help Haiti urgently rehabilitate Pic Macaya, which is a global ecological reserve.”


“The impact of the fire will not only concern Haiti, but rather the entire hemisphere of the Caribbean and the Americas.”ULYSSE JEAN CHENET, PRESIDENT OF THE ORGANIZATION MEDIC HAITI

About a month ago, images began circulated on various networks that showed fire breaking out at Pic Macaya, located between Les Cayes, Jérémie and other parts of southwest Haiti. To date, no official report is yet available and no agent from the Ministry of the Environment has visited the scene. The origin of the fire remains uncertain.

Pic Malaya is the second highest peak in Haiti after Pic la Selle, measuring 2,347 meters above sea level. In 2016, it was designated as a biosphere reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

After its preliminary assessments of spreading fire’s impact, Medic Haiti is considering two probable causes. One is the way of life of Pic Macaya residents, who use coal, slash-and-burn agriculture and a host non-ecological activities — called direct causes. Medic Haiti also said indirect causes may be to blame, such as global warming unfavorable to certain species of vegetation, in particular pines. Chenet also stressed that the tropical climate adapted to the survival of the living species of Pic Macaya does not exist.

If nothing is done to combat the fire, Chenet said, the southern region may experience a severe water crisis with the drying up of watersheds and water sources. The oxygen potential for the populations of the Great South and the Caribbean will drop considerably, potentially impacting the health of animals and people in the entire region.


With 80% of the southern Haiti region’s economy dependent on green activities, the area’s economy will likely see an exceptional drop in production due to water shortage.

“The impact of the fire will not only concern Haiti, but rather the entire hemisphere of the Caribbean and the Americas,” said Chenet.

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