Slow-motion catastrophe: Homes, crops lost as Haitian, Dominican lakes mysteriously expand – The Washington Post
No one thought much about it when the largest lake in the Caribbean began rising in a year of heavy rains. But then it never stopped.
Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic has doubled in size over the past eight years, swallowing thousands of acres of farms and more than a dozen villages.
In neighboring Haiti, smaller Lake Azuei has also steadily swelled, destroying homes and farms as well as disrupting trade by occasionally blocking a key cross-border highway. The two lakes are only three miles (five kilometers) apart and are fed by some of the same streams.
It’s been a slow-motion disaster and potentially catastrophic for two countries already burdened by major environmental challenges. The waters’ rise has worsened exponentially in recent years, especially after heavy rains in 2007 and 2008 hit the island of Hispaniola, which both countries share. Tropical Storm Isaac dumped more water on the region last month, sparking more damage.
While the cause remains a mystery, theories as to why the lakes are rising range from sediment and trash clogging the water system to increased rainfall from climate change and heavy storms.
Dominican farmer Domingo Bautista recalls how the water gradually overtook his sugar cane, banana and sweet potato crop. Within two months, the family had to abandon their one-bedroom home in the sunbaked village of Boca de Cachon.