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EPA Enviro-Justice Award for Sustainable Puerto Rico Plan

0 Comments 08 April 2011

EPA Enviro-Justice Award for Sustainable Puerto Rico Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted an environmental justice award to the ENLACE Cano Martin Pena Project, an endeavor that is working on a more sustainable plan for the Cano Martin Pena in Puerto Rico.

According to a press release by the EPA, “ENLACE has established and implemented a land use and comprehensive development plan that works to improve social, economic, and environmental conditions for 8 communities in the Cano Martin Pen Special Planning District.”

Poverty has been a threat to environmental sustainability in San Juan since the early twentieth century. Mass migrations of individuals and families to San Juan resulted in settlements being erected in the mangroves along the canal.

The Cano Martin Pena is a 3.5 mile long canal located in the San Juan Bay (SJB). The San Juan Bay is part of the National Estuary Program of the EPA. The Cano Martin Pena is so important because it connects the San Juan Bay and the San Jose Lagoon.

Toxins, pollution, and sedimentation in the Cano Martin Pena would have grave implications for the SJB and the San Jose Lagoon. Instituting policies and effective plans to mitigate the adverse affects of urbanization and lack of infrastructural development in the canal is key to controlling for damages in the region.

ENLACE is working toward water quality improvement in the Cano Martin Pena in several ways. Firstly, ENLACE partnered with the SJB National Estuary to test water quality in the canal. They are also working with the Ponce School of Medicine to study epidemiological data on the effects of residents’ repeated exposure to water polluted by sewage.

In terms of the Cano Martin Pena, private and public entities must cooperate on an immediate action plan for change in the canal. Protecting human health and ensuring economic development by conserving the environment is integral to seeing a more sustainable Puerto Rico in the twenty-first century.

Environmental justice is unique. It is difficult to enforce and almost impossible to incriminate. Yet, environmental injustice arguably puts more people at health, social, and economic risks than other crimes with more temporary affects.

Until effective systems are in place to  punish those who obstruct environmental justice, rewards for those who uphold it are crucial to protecting natural resources.

With the work of ENLACE, lives of local residents and inhabitants affected by poor quality water in the Cano Martin Pena will be changed for the better. And isn’t it by saving lives that we save the world?

The photo above is a picture of La Fortaleza in San Juan Bay

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