The operations of military installations have various effects on the local community and environment. In the case of Vieques, Puerto Rico has shown that the lack of consideration for military operations can cause negative social consequences to the area.
The U.S Navy had a presence and operated on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico from 1941 to 2003, during that time period the U.S Navy used the island as a military testing site for live fire exercises and various other operation projects. After protests and pressure from the local community, the U.S Navy withdrew from Vieques in May 2003. The use of the island as a military testing site and its lasting impact on the environment and community after the withdrawal of the U.S Navy. Problems such as high cancer rates, contaminated water systems, violence against the community, environmental degradation, and the need for the importation of food and water because the water on the island is contaminated. These issues still continued today.
UMB professor Dr. Estrada-Martinez is currently involved in a public health research project regarding the situation in Vieques. In her conversation with the WJI, she discussed approaching her project at a macro level. Her project strives to find out, through testing and talking to local residents, what contaminants were found in the environment and how they impacted the health of the community. She also just put in a proposal for EPA-funded research on the effect of climate change on these leftover contaminants. For example: in cases like Hurricane Maria, and their possibilities of bringing up and uncovering buried explosives. Dr. Estrada-Martinez stressed the tension that occurs between different governmental agencies such as the DOD, DOI, and EPA had made the clean-up project more difficult. As a Puerto Rican herself, she does her best to maintain the reputation and relations of the scientists and local communities to get better collaboration with ongoing research projects.
The conversation with Dr. Estrada-Martinez and the case of Vieques, Puerto Rico, brought to light the importance of factoring in the surrounding community and local environment during military operations to avoid negative social consequences.
The views expressed on this blog, are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of The William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences or UMass Boston.
Estrada-Martinez, Lorena. Interview. By Ayla Rich, YuYing Chen. November 19, 2021