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Haiti: A Pathfinder to Post-Earthquake Responses for Environmental and Natural Resources

Haitian Sewage and Sanitation

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Compiled by 2nd year University of South Carolina Law Student Amanda B. Turner.

Issue:

Haiti has no wide scale sewage systems, leading to public health risks including disease. Since the earthquake of January 12, 2010 what was an existing national problem has turned into a crisis.

Background:

More than half the deaths in Haiti (under normal circumstances) have been due to diseases such as hepatitis, cholera, malaria, typhoid, intestinal infections and diarrhea that can be caused by contaminated water. For more information, see link at: http://www.haitiwater.org/water_in_haiti/problem.php.

Sewage According to information from a loan proposal for water and sanitation in intermediate cities, a document of the Inter-American Development Bank (which is the largest contributor to the water and sanitation sector in Haiti), Haiti's water situation has been dire for some time. In Haiti only 50% of urban residents and 30% of rural residents have access to potable water systems. In 2003 the census showed only 8.5% of houses were connected to a water distribution system, 32% of the population uses water supplied from rivers, and 32% drinks spring water. Potable water is provided by two bodies under the Ministry of Public works. Haiti has no wide scale sewer systems. Some Haitians have latrines, others dig holes on their property. Some feasibility studies in cities like St Marc show that the operation and maintenance of sewage systems would cost more than the population's capacity to pay. Causes include the lack of political will, lack of investment, bankrupt operational management, and lack of human resources. The Haitian legislature has "prepared an institutional reform and a framework law" for development of this sector, that passed in Jan. 09, and was published in Mar. 09. For more information on this topic, see link at: http://idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=2203558.

There are currently no substantial sewers in any part of Haiti. This is due to a variety of factors, including unreliable water supply, investment and maintenance costs, and the lack of a supportive education program. See more in a United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) 1998 technical report at this link: http://www.cep.unep.org/pubs/Techreports/tr43en/Haiti.htm.

Possible Way(s) Forward:

At least two feasible alternatives exist for Haitian sewage systems: 1. Developing multiple small sewer systems including primary treatment plants (better in suburban areas), or 2. Developing private septic systems or other types of individual wastewater systems. Again, see the UNEP technical report: http://www.cep.unep.org/pubs/Techreports/tr43en/Haiti.htm.

For Further Information:

Photo credit: United States Department of Defense.


ABOUT THIS PATHFINDER

This project was researched primarily by the Spring 2010 Environmental Law Seminar students at the University of South Carolina School of Law: Victor A. Dorobantu, Erin Kee, Daniel Y. Lee, Katherine M. Malloy, W. Guy Quinn, William R. Timmons IV, Amanda B. Turner. They were supervised by Professor Kim Diana Connolly, and assisted by librarians Terrye Conroy, Rebekah Maxwell and Stephanie Marshall. Coordinating partners were certain staff of the Environmental Law Institute, Konpay, the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Technical assistance with web design was provided by USC School of Law webmaster Tobias Brasier. All questions or comments regarding the pathfinder should be directed to Professor Connolly. Broken links should be reported to lawweb@law.sc.edu. This website is NOT intended as legal advice, and particularized analysis by professionals should be sought wherever appropriate. It is current as of May 3, 2010.