Miches Hopes to Become an Eco Friendly Destination

Miches, a small, tranquil town in the Dominican Republic, hopes to become an eco friendly destination. Miches is rich with natural beauty: pristine beaches, mountains, waterfalls, tropical weather and wildlife. Unfortunately, many people in Miches live in poverty. Electricity is sporadic, water is unclean and the economy is subsistence-based due their isolation from other communities.

Professor Don Melnick from Columbia University says that a group of people from Miches basically told him:  "We are poor, but Miches is ours. What we are afraid of is that we will still be poor, but Miches will no longer be ours." Aware of the large foreign resorts further down the coast, the people of Miches feared that their town would be overtaken by non-sustainable tourism. Instead, with the help of a team of researchers at Columbia University and other organizations, the town of Miches may become an innovative leader in sustainable and ecologically sensitive tourism.

The Miches initiative at Columbia University is called ESSEG: Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Economic Growth; the project approaches a number of interconnected facets of sustainable development, pertaining to the environment, economy and social conditions of the town. To assess the environmental conditions in Miches, ESSEG ran extensive biodiversity surveys in 2007. Furthermore, ESSEG investigated human health conditions to analyze the impact of low water quality. At the time, sewage in the Municipality of Miches was untreated and unconfined, which had was dangerous for the citizens and the environment. In conjunction with Peace Corps and the local community, ESSEG helped build simple latrines for the whole community.

Other steps on the road to becoming an eco friendly destination include water distribution, community building workshops, renewable energy exploration and hydrilla control. The freshwater plant Hydrilla took over a lagoon in Miches, which destroyed the fishing industry. With the help of the local fishermen, the Ministry of Environment an international experts, ESSEG is working to find a way to control the plant. In order for Miches to become an eco friendly destination, sustainable, local food options must be available. Ideally, hotels would serve local food, and that food would be served by local people.

In June, Tropacalia signed an agreement with CONATURA-MICHES (Committee for Tourism Development and Conservation of Natural Resources in Miches) to further their corporate social responsibility strategy. Members of the Columbia University ESSEG program attended the meeting. The agreement is meant to support Miches development as an eco friendly destination, regarding responsible real estate development, environmental conservation and so forth.  If all goes well, Miches growth will elevate the community by providing work and skills, preserve the environment, and set a standard for sustainable growth.

Photo Credit: Flickr