Monday, January 25, 2016

Bassin Zim guards and guides

Entrance to Bassin Zim
Feb. 2017 update - they addressed these complaints!  There is now a sign with prices and we entered the park in peace.

Bassin Zim is a waterfall near Hinche in the central plateau.  HaitiLibre had an article about the Ministry of Tourism putting it on their "Water Route" circuit so it will “be part of a model of sustainable development based on community tourism.”  The Ministry met with the locals in Dec. 2015 to discuss “the need for communities to well welcome visitors to the site.”  I write this review to give the Ministry some feedback from a foreigner’s point of view. 

Three times I have taken my Haitian university students to Bassin Zim to learn about water quality, and have not felt welcomed upon arrival.  The 15 minute haggle over entrance fees makes for a poor start to the visit.  It is especially sad that the guards want to charge their fellow Haitians twice as much just because a foreigner is with them.  Negotiations involve telling the guards we were charged 25 gds per person on our first visit, the guards insisting on 50 gds a person then getting mad and yelling.  One time this deteriorated into them hitting children with sticks and large rocks, making the kids cry.  While the kids had disrespectfully yelled at the guards to let us in, the violent reproach left a very bad impression.  

Last week my freshman ecology class negotiated a price of 250 gds ($4) for the entire van of 19 people.  As we left we thanked the guards and said we’d return with another class.  Yet on arrival just one week later with my juniors, the same guards again demanded 50 gds a person.  After much haggling and the guard feigning locking gate and stomping off, my junior ecology students managed to get us in for 250 gds, this time for a van of 13.  Each time my students were respectful, and even broke up the fight between the guards and the children.

Measuring turbidity.
During last week’s visit with my freshmen, five “guides” (both children and adults) followed us around and insisted on “helping” me (but not my students), even though my students explained we had a plan and knew where we were going.  This week the children figured out we had an agenda and hung out in the background.  A student gave them a little lesson about testing water chemistry and evaluating the watershed.  If the Ministry of Tourism really wants to promote Bassin Zim, it needs to standardize and post entrance fees (with reduced rates for locals), and train guards and guides to be courteous to visitors (both Haitian and foreign). 

If they truly care about the water and sustainability, they need pick up trash, ban livestock and washing in the river, protect the remaining trees (charcoal was being made right along the path to the cave), put a buffer of more trees around the park (crops grow right up to the walkway), and remove the new tilapia pond that sits next to the cave and dumps directly into the river.  Maybe someday one of my students will work for the Ministry of Tourism or the Environment and enact these changes.

The big cave

Small cave
Teaching about water quality next to the tilapia pond.

Measuring temperature.
Measuring forest density.

No comments:

Post a Comment