San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

What Kissinger Report Overlooked

Feb. 24, 1984

A half-century ago, Costa Rica’s many mountain rivers and streams tumbled sparklingly to the sea. Today it is difficult to find a river that is not heavily clouded with mud.

The waterways are clogged with the nation’s topsoil, which they carry away forever.

This phenomenon becomes more acute as one moves north through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Four percent of Honduran forests are being cleared every year for fuel wood and farmland. Guatemala lost about 35 percent of its forest cover from 1950 to 1980. At the present rate of timbering, Costa Rica’s forests will be depleted within 20 years.

“The rich volcanic soils are very prone to erosion once the tree cover has been removed,” Canadian environmentalist David Runnalls comments in his recent report. “This in turn decreases soil fertility and silts up reservoirs, decreasing drinking water supplies.”

The author points out that the recent report of the bipartisan Kissinger Commission, established by Reagan to study the turmoil in Central America, “well sums up the conventional wisdom about economic development.” But, he says, the report “fails to recommend a single measure for restoration of the region’s natural resource base.

The commission’s recommendations … are totally unworkable without a major program of land, forest and watershed rehabilitation.”


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