Deforestation in Haiti Increases Flood Danger

More than 90 percent of the country of Haiti is deforested. If you think that’s depressing, consider that the lack of trees to hold soil in place has left Haiti’s rural residents vulnerable to periodic floods in which torrential rainwater tumbles down mountains, picking up gravel and boulders that slam into villages. A flood last week killed 1,700 people around the village of Mapou. And yes, it gets worse: The root of the problem is poverty. Virtually no one in the country outside a few urban centers has access to electricity, so they burn tree-derived charcoal to cook. Government ministers met yesterday to consider solutions ranging from importing propane or wood to increasing enforcement of the logging bans regularly flouted by desperate residents. The U.S. and France are both offering some food and reforestation aid, but it’s unlikely to dent the problems of a country that has descended almost completely into poverty. Gloom and doom, yes. Humor, not so much this time.