Aging infrastructure

Floods highlight decades of underinvestment in water infrastructure in the Dominican Republic.

Torrential rains in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in early November killed seven people as some areas in the capital saw twice the monthly average rainfall in a single day. Floods damaged hundreds of homes, vehicles, and other facilities as President Luis Abinader instructed the government to assist flood victims. Nevertheless, some areas in Santo Domingo continue to have structural problems with the sewage system.

A local meteorologist explained the cause of the latest flooding, “The floods were a combination of three meteorological events: a low-pressure system in the Caribbean Sea, a tropical wave that was affecting the Dominican Republic and a trough that was located north of the Caribbean. It was an unusual situation, but these unusual events are occurring more frequently.”

“The floods were a combination of three meteorological events. It was an unusual situation, but these unusual events are occurring more frequently.”

Meterologist, Dominican Republic

Such weather events may be unusual but urban planners have been denouncing the limited capacity of the drainage network in certain areas of the capital, which grew without planning or infrastructure, for years. In addition, Santo Domingo lacks an appropriate storm drainage system to conduct rainwater and sanitary sewerage. In recent years, infrastructure limitations have been evidenced by natural disasters such as hurricanes and tropical storms. Since Hurricane Maria in 2017, torrential rains have also damaged pipelines, adding water contamination and waterborne diseases to the problems affecting residents.

One such urban planner explained, “There is a lack of planning, a lack of education and a lack of technical expertise. Stormwater drainage doesn’t exist in some areas, water treatment is rudimentary and litter is making things worse. The problem is that this infrastructure is out-of-sight and out-of-mind so there is inadequate investment and maintenance.”

“The problem is that this infrastructure is out-of-sight and out-of-mind so there is inadequate investment and maintenance.”

Urban planner, Dominican Republic

In response, and aware of the health, social, and economic problems that the capital and the whole country are currently experiencing, the government is currently implementing a USD 8.85 billion 15-year-long plan to improve water infrastructure throughout the country. The plan contemplates the construction of 58 aqueducts and sewer systems, the rehabilitation of the existing urban network, and the construction of 17 dams.

This National Water Pact (“Compromiso Nacional Para el Pacto del Agua”) has received significant funding from international development agencies from Canada, US, France, and Spain. More specifically, AECID, the Spanish development agency, has supported the Dominican Water Fund (“FCAS”) with more than EUR 49 million between 2001 and 2021, having collaborated in more than 80% of FCAS projects. The National Water Pact is expected to improve living conditions in urban areas such as Santo Domingo while, at the same time, providing infrastructure to consolidate the Dominican Republic’s industrial growth, and supporting the local agricultural sector.

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