|47. The relationship between natural resources and development: Dominican Republic and Japan|
|Wednesday, 26 October 2011|
Ms Chisato Ishizaki
I did not have the opportunity to study before about the environment especially in my academic life. Therefore I found my class on resource-based conflict quite challenging.
The lecture reminded me of my limited work experience in the Dominican Republic, which involved natural resource, development, and conflict resolution.
From 2004 to 2007, I worked as a rural development volunteer of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Constanza city in the Dominican Republic. My area of work was a community called Arenazo, which had 249 households and was known as the poorest area in Constanza city. I worked with local community members on research on their living conditions and helped identify the important development issues facing the nine communities. This was an effort that was never conducted before by the city government.
We discovered that 98% of residents could not access clean water; 18% of residents suffered from diseases caused by using dirty water; and 30% of children did not attend school because their parents believed that searching for water and bringing it home was far more important than studying at school. In addition, I discovered that some residents in the communities used unsafe water for agriculture.
There was a conflict over the issue of water between the community of Arenazo and the city government of Constanza because the city government did not provide Arenazo a water system like it did in other areas in the city. This was the situation even as the city government of Constanza was aware of the community's water problem. The city government claimed that its budget was very limited even though it had a budget for road making or for reconstructing a city government building.
Most of the men in Arenazo were farmers, earning under US$ 100 per month. Furthermore, the literacy rate in Arenazo was only 44%. The community members had difficulty researching and analyzing their health conditions and living situation to negotiate with the city government and demand the construction of the water project.
However, even while many people in the community were very poor and illiterate, they knew enough about how to use natural resources in a responsible way that did not destroy the environment. They knew that they could source enough water for the community from the river located nine kilometers away by connecting pipes. They did not want to build a dam for their water supply because they knew it would destroy their environment, including the river, forests, and mountains, and would adversely affect their lives and those of other species.
My role was to guide people in the community in analyzing their issues so they could set up a committee for the water project, and take the initiative in negotiating with the city government about constructing and maintaining the water supply system they desperately needed. Eventually, in the course of the negotiations, the city government recognized the importance of enabling the community to access clean water, and agreed to carry out the water project.
The city government offered to undertake an examination of water quality and to supply the project's materials. Community members offered their labor services and ideas for the water project. As a result, people in the community were able to obtain their water system in a way that they envisioned would not destroy their environment. In 2007, 249 families already had access to water supply in their own homes.
The city government and the community were engaged in conflict lasting many years over this water issue. However, in the end, the people in the community found a way to resolve the conflict and develop their lives by their own hands.
I reflected on this experience as we discussed in class the situation in the Mekong in Southeast Asia. The Mekong River dam project will affect not only the people but also the various species of fish living there. It will affect the river ecology and fisheries. Changing the river's eco-balance will destroy the livelihoods of people and the biodiversity of species. Dam construction can be viewed as a way of catching up with industrialization but it will also generate conflicts among countries around Mekong River over the issue of water use.
I feel that if we continue to destroy nature to satisfy our desires such as convenience and economic competition, this will backfire on us in a horrible way eventually. I feel this is what happened to my country in the disaster of March 2011. The earthquakes and tsunamis that recently hit Japan are now followed by the threat of explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Japan built nuclear power plants because it was supposed to be needed in industrialization to keep up with economic competition.
We Japanese knew about the horror of nuclear power because we had been victims of nuclear bombings in 1945. In spite of that, we created 21 nuclear power plants in such a tiny country as ours.
Japan was a high-tech country but it was unable to control its nuclear power and prevent a massive disaster. We were powerless in the face of nature.
I believe now is the time for us to face up to new ways of development so that we can live in harmony with nature.
Ms Chisato Ishizaki is from Japan and is part of the student batch for SY2010-2011 and one of the Asia Leaders Program (ALP) scholars, pursuing her MA degree in Peace Education at the University for Peace. Ms Ishizaki obtained a BA Sociology degree from Shikoku Gakuin University in Japan. ALP is a dual campus masters degree project, a shared initiative between The Nippon Foundation, University for Peace, and the Ateneo de Manila University. This is her reflection paper for the lecture that Pedro Walpole gave on Practices of Conflict Management in Asia focusing on natural resources and resource use, conflict, and management last 18 to 20 April 2011.