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Environmental Realities in Havana

Environmental Realities in Havana
November 5, 2014
Text: Elvira Pardo Cruz

HAVANA TIMES — It is almost impossible to take in a deep breath of fresh
air in urban Havana, where the emission of pollutants into the
atmosphere can be witnessed absolutely everywhere you go.

You can see the chimneys surrounding the Bay puffing out smoke which is
always accompanied by a big flash, which can be seen from different
points around the city. The smog disperses into the atmosphere resulting
in a constant decline in the city’s air quality, without considering its
repercussions on our health.

Havana Bay, one of Cuba’s most contaminated bays, is just beginning to
recover after an environmental sanitation project was carried out, but
there is still a tide of waste materials that have been thrown into the
sea by the few boats that visit it and by inland transportation. The Bay
is also victim to garbage coming from the drains that exist in the
Luyanó rivers (the Bay’s most significant contaminator) and the Martín
Pérez and Arroyo Tadeo tributaries, sending plastic bottles and bags,
wood, bottles, cans and branches to Havana’s harbor, damaging its
revitalized ecosystem.

The circulation of traffic within the city, some vehicles, which can be
classified as real running museums, are in such a poor technical state
that they violate already established health regulations, and cause huge
concentrations of carbon monoxide, not only on the road, but also within
our interiors, leading to irritation and inflamation of our respiratory
systems as well as impregnating the unpleasant smell of petrol into not
only the passenger’s, but also the pedestrian’s clothes, hair and skin.

In Old Havana, a highly urbanized area with strong religious roots, the
cultural surroundings encourage the boom in religious practices, that
extend across other areas within the capital. Ritual sacrifices can be
observed that are distasteful to those that do not practice Santeria
because of the grotesque element of some of these scenes that qualify as
animal cruelty.

Parks, corners and coastal areas are the dumping grounds of all kinds of
ebbo, (cleanings) that without a doubt ingrain themselves in our psyche,
another facet of our health, which according to the World Health
Organization, is just as important as our physical and social wellbeing.

Public health and hygiene within the city go hand in hand, whilst the
unhealthy conditions which violate urban cleanliness and our attitudes
and behavior in regard to these practices, result in infestations of
vectors and rodents, as well as attenuated environments from the stench
caused by the decay of animal carcasses and other sacrifices,
significantly affecting the quality of life of the city’s residents.

The lack of social discipline and compliance with the regulations
already put in place to limit noise pollution, essentially produced by
the city’s transport, the factories, port activity, or the bicycle taxis
which have large speakers forcing us to listen to their driver’s
favorite music at quite a few decibels, is yet another common
environmental problem.

On July 11, 1997, the Cuban Parliament passed an Environmental Law in
order to implement an accurate strategy with regard to preserving the
country’s natural environment. It is every Cuban’s responsibility to pay
attention to this issue in the here and now, as environmental realities
depend on our interaction with them, and ultimately our health depends
on this reality.

Source: Environmental Realities in Havana – Havana Times.org –
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=107132

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