Hoping for a hurricane is the latest sign that Cubans are suffering from an epic drought that appears to offer no foreseeable relief.
In August, Cuba placed its civil defense system on alert and made plans to repair and replace its water infrastructure that is reported to be losing half its volume due to leaks. The current drought is affecting about 70% of the country and is believed to be the worst in over 100 years.
Guantanamo and the central eastern province of Sancti Spiritus have been among the hardest hit by the drought that it now in its second year. The Cuba government is reporting greater than a 40% decline in production in one of its rice producing entities. Rice is a major staple in the Cuba diet. The island nation can only meet demand by importing rice, mostly from China and Vietnam.
Myrta Kaulard, coordinator and resident representative of the United Nations for Development Program (UNDP), is helping the Cuban government address soil protection. Special areas highlighted for concentrated effort include the severely degraded ecosystems in Pinar del Rio and Guantanamo. She said that in these areas soil erosion has stopped, rehabilitating and stabilizing rills, boosting fertilization with organic material, building drainage channels and reservoirs for irrigation water.
The Russian government has recently announced in initiative to assist Cuba. In October, Russian Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov met in Moscow with Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Cuba Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz. During the talks, the parties agreed to establish a working group to assess the drought situation and develop proposals for dealing with its consequences in the territory of this island state.
“The Russian Emergencies Ministry is ready to join the work and provide the necessary assistance,” assured Russian Emergencies Ministry Head Vladimir Puchkov.
According to the Russian government, the Russian Federation has a history of responding promptly to emergencies in Cuba by delivered relief supplies on a bilateral and multilateral basis. Since 1993, Cuba has received more than 1.2 thousand tons of humanitarian aid from Russia including food, medicine, construction materials, tents, blankets, and beds. The Russian aid was particularly needed after devastating hurricanes Gustav and Sandy in 2008 and 2012.
Cuba has recently announced plans to develop real estate projects that include golf courses. One in particular includes a plan to partner with a Chinese government entity to develop a large golf complex estimated to be $462m in total project costs. A golf course in a tropical environment can consume up to 80 million gallons of water annually. It is unclear whether the current drought is impacting planned golf projects in Cuba.