Water levels at Lake Enriquillo in Dominican Republic rising inexplicably

World Today

Tens of thousands of people in the Dominican Republic are wondering if they’re feeling the effects of climate change right now. They live near the largest lake in the Caribbean region, and it is growing larger at an alarming rate.

CCTV America’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports.

A sea of dead trees has replaced the properties, hopes, and sources of livelihood for locals near Lake Enriquillo in the southwest part of the country. The water levels of the Caribbean’s largest lake have been rising for a decade, and no one knows exactly why.

“The people that used to live here were mostly farmers and ranchers. Everything here used to be arable land. With the rising lake, they lost it all,” Tour Operator Miguel Angel said.

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The lake has been expanding close to a meter (3.3 feet) per year, submerging more than 16,000 hectares (39,537 acres) of farmland in all. The locals said it is due to too much rain and too many storms. Scientists suspect climate change is the root cause, but don’t have conclusive proof.

“In my opinion, all this is climate change, all these weird changes around the world,” Angel said.

Displaced residents have been moved by authorities to a new neighborhood.

“The water rose, it moved land from one side to the other. It basically trapped us in the middle. We had to leave, if not we were going to drown,” displaced resident Andres Vargas said. Vargas has lived by the lake his whole live.

“I don’t like it here. I used to eat meat every day. I had a goat farm, weekly I would kill one and we had food. Here, I have nothing.”

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Most of the transplanted residents say they feel dumped in an urbanization project where they don’t belong.

“I had a huge property, but the lake took it all. I used to grow plantains, cassava, beans, pigeon peas, all that,” resident Francisco Encarnacion said.

The latest U.S. National Climate Assessment predicts more extreme weather patterns in the Caribbean with fewer tropical storms, but ones that are stronger and produce more rainfall.