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Saving the Dominican Republic's coral reefs

March 17, 2020

An estimated 90% of the nation's coral reefs have been destroyed, creating a knock-on effect for the entire coastal ecosystem. Local businesses and conservationists are now working to reverse this damage.

People lying on a sandy, palm-lined beach
Image: DW/Tim Schauenberg

Climate Change and tourism endangering coral reefs

Project goal: Making nature more resilient in the face of climate change, tourism and other man-made dangers by protecting and restoring mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs

Project scope: Providing financing to make natural ecosystems more adaptable to climate change in 11 projects across 10 Caribbean countries. Since 2014, non-profit conservation group "Fundacion Grupo Puntacana" has revived corals at 60 sites along the Punta Cana coast in the Dominican Republic

Project partner: German state-owned development bank KfW, the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, the International Climate Initiative (IKI), and the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF).

Project financing: The KfW is providing the Dominican conservation group with $800,000 between 2020 and 2022. The group will invest around $400,000 of its own money. From an initial ideas competition, 11 projects are currently being funded with 12 million US dollars until 2022. The total framework of the program is €45 million, which will be provided by IKI.

Some 6.5 million holidaymakers descend upon the Dominican Republic each year to enjoy its glorious palm-lined beaches and turquoise blue waters.

But mass tourism, polluted water, overfishing and climate change have destroyed an estimated 90% of the nation's coral reefs, creating a knock-on effect for the entire coastal ecosystem.

Anglers' nets are now often empty, while the ebb and flow of the tide, rising sea levels and tropical storms carry away more and more of the country's sandy beaches unhindered. In turn that's threatening the very tourism, which is the number one source of income in the country. 

Local non-profit Fundacion Grupo Puntacana is trying to reverse the worst effects.

Founded by investor group Grupo Puntacana, which runs a number of hotel resorts in the Dominican Republic, the foundation is restoring coral reefs and establishing protected areas in the hopes of securing the coastal landscape — and the livelihoods of coastal inhabitants.

A film by Tim Schauenberg