Cuban rivers run clean

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The rivers in the central Cuban province of Cienfuegos were the subject of tests for water quality by a joint expert team of Cuban and U.S. scientists, who collected water and sediments samples in 25 local river basins only to find out that they were relatively free of pollution.

“The results have proven that the water quality of Cuban rivers is excellent; they enjoy good health,” said Rita Sibello, a Cuban expert at the Cienfuegos Center for Environmental Studies and a member of the scientific team.

Cuba backed away from extensive use of chemicals and fertilizers for farming when its supplies were disrupted by the fall of the Soviet Union back in the early 1990s, and turned to more sustainable practices, including organic farming.

The scientists agree that the research study proves the friendly and beneficial relationship between sustainable agriculture and water basins, which sets an example for other nations to follow.

In mountainous areas where some fertilizers are still used, integrated soil management techniques include the setting up of land barriers or terraces which help prevent chemicals from reaching the rivers.

The study, however, wasn’t all positive. It also found high levels of manure-related E-coli bacteria present in most of the samples, which is the result of run-off from areas where cattle graze.

Experts with the Cienfuegos´s Center for Environmental Studies explain that although they are implementing an integrated soil management concept, the still need practical implementation tools, like how to process ranching and agriculture-linked waste in order to cushion its impact on the local rivers.

Important to note is that the recent study brought together US and Cuban scientists in the field for the first time in 60 years, despite big political differences between the two governments and the increasing U.S. sanctions against the island nation.

“The relations and exchange among all researchers were excellent; the only difference between us was the language, they used their English and we used our Spanish, and we teamed up so good with the only aim of joining forces to study the environment,” Cuban scientist Rita Sibello stressed.

This joint research study has not ended; Cuban scientists say they expect to take the joint effort to other rivers, next time in the eastern Cuban region.