HAVANA – Cuba risks losing a vast stretch of beach front homes and pristine coastal habitat by 2050, because of rapidly rising sea levels, a top environmental official has warned.
At a panel discussion on Cuban environmental policy, Tomas Escobar, director of the island's National Environment Agency, on Thursday said rising oceans could submerge huge areas of the Caribbean island, with potentially devastating consequences.
The changes "could affect ecosystems, increase the vulnerability of coastal settlements, reduce agricultural soil productivity, crops and forestry and reduce the quality and availability of water", the Prensa Latina news agency quoted Escobar as saying.
"At the current rate of increase in sea level, by 2050 we will have lost nearly 2,700sq.km of land area and 9,000 homes," he said.
Cuba has an area of 109,884sq.km, and more than 5,700km of coastline that includes everything from steep cliffs to sandy beaches to swamps.
Escobar said President Raul Castro's government had established a policy to try and mitigate the effects of rising sea levels, centred on "the goal of reducing vulnerabilities identified in disaster prevention studies".
Policy priorities include the conservation and rehabilitation of coastal ecosystems, including the island's coral reefs, mangroves and beaches. -- AFP