Unesco designates Madre de las Aguas as a Biosphere Reserve

Environment Minister Miguel Ceara Hatton gave credit to the diligent efforts of environmentalist Yvonne Arias of Grupo Jaragua when announcing the Dominican Republic now has a second Biosphere Reserve, that of Madre de las Aguas. Arias persevered throughout more than 20 years and submitted the project three times to the Unesco’s Man and the Biosphere Program.

Ceara Hatton spoke of the concerted effort of the Dominican MaB Committee at the Unesco program under Arias.

Arias worked for years with the technical teams of the Ministry of Environment, the Dominican delegation to Unesco, the Ministry of Culture, and other government entities collaborating with academic institutions and environmental groups.

As reported on the Presidency website, Arias explained that the Dominican Republic successfully completed all the tasks assigned to it by the Man and the Biosphere Program. She was present with Dominican Unesco Ambassador Andrés L. Mateo when the designation was announced together with 10 other biosphere reserves around the world.

Ceara Hatton said the designation underscores a commitment to current and future generations to prioritize the conservation of a crucial mountainous area essential for water resources.

The importance of the designation is that it provides an international legal framework to resist intents to set up roads and unsustainable businesses that affect water resources.

Stakeholders in the region believe that the designation of the biosphere reserve will have a positive impact on current land conflicts by fostering opportunities for dialogue and sustainable development, primarily through ecotourism and agriculture.

The designation will enable environmentalists and government to better protect 709 rivers and streams in seven main river basins – Yaque del Norte, Yaque del Sur, Yuna, Nizao, Ocoa, Artibonito and Haina.
The Madre de las Aguas includes three scientific reserves, two natural monuments, and two forest reserves, spanning 11 provinces and 36 municipalities: Azua, Dajabón, Elías Piña, La Vega, Monseñor Nouel, Peravia, San Cristóbal, San José de Ocoa, San Juan de la Maguana, Santiago, and Santiago Rodríguez, with a population impact of over 1,591,000 people.

Madre de las Aguas Biosphere Reserve encompasses 9,374 km² in the 11 provinces. The territory is characterized by its diverse topography. An array of natural wonders ranging from plateaus to cascading waterfalls form an intricate tapestry of landscapes. This biosphere reserve features four distinct ecosystems home to 88 bird species, 20 of which are endemic and 17 under threat. The Sparrowhawk (Buteo ridgwayi) is deemed to be Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, for instance.

Unesco included Madre de las Aguas in the 11 new biosphere reserves decided during the 36th session of the International Coordinating Council, the governing body of Unesco’s Man and the Biosphere program, which is composed of 34 representatives of Unesco Member States. The Council held its session in Agadir, Morocco, from 2 to 5 July 2024 following the Unesco Conference on Soils.

The other new biosphere reserves are located in Belgium and Gambia, Colombia, Italy, Mongolia, Netherlands, the Philippines, Korea, Slovenia and Spain.

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves now totals 759 sites in 136 countries.

Biosphere reserves are an essential component of Unesco’s mandate as the United Nations’ organization for sciences. Each biosphere reserve promotes innovative local sustainable development solutions, protects biodiversity, and addresses climate disruption. They also support local and Indigenous communities through practices such as agro-ecology, water management, and the generation of green income.

The Grupo Jaragua is responsible for the country’s first biosphere reserve in the Jaragua area in southwestern provinces fronting the Caribbean Sea.

Read more:
Ministry of Environment
El Caribe

8 July 2024