Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The water and infrastructure crisis in Cuba

Castro's environmental legacy

Lacking water in Cuba the sign reads: "We want water regardless of your ideas"
The current water situation in Cuba 
Eliécer Palma Pupo, of the Eastern Democratic Alliance on September 15, 2015 reported on the plight of residents without indoor plumbing in the midst of the ongoing drought:
This is the case of the residents of the neighborhood Los Pinos in the municipality of Banes in  Holguin who say they can not stand the situation of drinking water as well as use for all household chores, according to Estela Cruz Marrero, who belongs to the ranks of the Resistance and wife of nonviolent opposition activist Pacifico Alexander Rodriguez Santiesteban, that not only is this situation going on now that the country has been facing the longest drought in the last hundred years, or that is to say it is a problem of decades of neglect by the government since there is no installation of pipes for the precious liquid to reach them, but also depends on who makes the claim. If they are opponents then they are arrested and immediately taken to the dungeons insulting them, telling them they are not People Power delegates as if they would listen to them or give them some solution that is why the photo shows the phrase WE WANT WATER REGARDLESS OF YOUR IDEAS today not only does the situation occur in Holguin but it happens throughout the island.
 The government of Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship with no accountability. Statistics provided are not reliable and do not reflect the reality on the ground. Independent and anecdotal reports paint a grim picture. A 2014 report in El Nuevo Herald reported that two and a half million Cubans did not have access to potable water in their homes. Even within the remainder of homes with “drinking” water the quality has been the subject of public dissent and criticism of services. On September 2, 2014 over twitter Yoani Sanchez posted the following image with the text: “This is how “drinkable” water arrives in the networks of the city of Pinar del Rio.

"Drinkable" water in Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Although on paper, rules and regulations in Cuba are set up to discourage excessive water consumption the deteriorating infrastructure, and the lack of a political priority to modernize it over the past five decades, is a disaster that finds water pipes breaking down and potable water wasted. The drought underway combined with these inefficiencies paints a grim picture for the Cuban water supply.

How did things get so bad

Eudel Eduardo Cepero who for fifteen years worked at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Empresa Nacional de Proyectos Agropecuarios, Camagüey Affiliate, in the monograph “Environmental Concerns for a Cuba in Transition” explained why the situation today is so bad:
"Water Pollution and Contamination Contamination and pollution of freshwater and inshore seawater have increasingly worsened, especially during the past few years. Water quality in most cities has deteriorated for the following reasons: 1) sewage networks are poorly maintained and insufficient to service the population; 2) many more wastewater treatment plants need to be built and the ones that exist are in critically poor repair; and 3) potable water service is deplorable, due to chronic insufficiencies in chlorination and deteriorated facilities for potable water treatment."
Castro's hostility to the environment
In the same monograph Eudel explained how hostility to the environment is part of the DNA of the Castro regime quoting the old dictator twice with comments that set the tone for governing and environmental destruction in Cuba. On May 21, 1963, Fidel Castro presented the key points of those ideas in a speech given at Moscow’s Lomonosov University:
“I said to myself: When communism has been built, the stage of social revolutions will have ended, but then a huge, great, infinite revolution will remain to be waged, and that is the revolution against the forces of nature. And the nature revolution will never end!” (Granma, November 28, 1967). 
Eudel explained that "The ideas of conquest and subjugation of the natural environment have been at the heart of all the Castro regime’s development attempts; they even formed an integral part of the scientific system, when they were incorporated into the research and development guidelines of the Academy of Science of Cuba, as set forth in chapter eight thereof":
“The Institute of Geography, at the same time that it should start the plan for the national study and inventory of the country’s natural resources, must seek to make a reality the concept of geography as the science of transformation of nature, which converts the seas to land, inlets into freshwater reservoirs, dry areas into wet ones, which transforms unproductive lands into agricultural lands” (Granma, January 2, 1968).
 Five decades of policies that harm the environment has made real and long term damage to the ecosystem in the island that Cubans have and will continue to suffer as long as the totalitarian regime remains in power. The international community has recognized a right to water, but in Cuba this right like all others are systematically violated.

The totalitarian nature of the government of Cuba was on display when it initially covered up a 2012 cholera outbreak in the island. The story was broken by independent journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, who for making known the cholera outbreak and the poor government response was arrested in September 2012 for disrespecting the dictatorship, and recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience in January of 2013. He was finally released after spending nearly seven months in prison in April of 2013.  The 2012 cholera outbreak in Cuba indicates a decline in hygiene controls not seen since colonial times considering that the last  cholera epidemic in Cuba ended in 1882.


  1. All of those problems are problems that can be fixed. It is up to the Cuban government to make use of all the highly trained people who are in the country. Cuba is known for its high standard of training in many areas. The science needed to ensure that potable water is in every household can be applied to find solutions.