Environmental Situation in Haiti and Proposed Solutions

Subject: Environment
Pages: 7
Words: 1671
Reading time:
6 min

The environmental situation in Haiti is paradoxical. On the one hand, the country has a variety of natural resources. On the other hand, people have practically no access to these resources. Apart from the resource exploitation problem, Haiti also has serious environmental issues, pollution being the most severe of them. The current project aims to reduce these and other troubles in Haiti to eliminate the destruction of the ocean.

Pollution. Haiti is a highly polluted country, with the rates of people’s dissatisfaction with air and water quality being high or very high. According to the regulations set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the levels of air pollution in Haiti can soon amount to the point regarded as hazardous. Air researchers report that Haitians are subject to a higher risk for such serious respiratory illnesses as heart disease or lung cancer. Particle concentrations around Cap-Haïtien and Port-au-Prince are higher than anywhere else in the developing world except for China and India. The concentration of particles during the morning rush hour in Port-au-Prince surpasses the levels considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Whereas in such countries as China, the air is largely polluted due to unregulated industrial processes, in Haiti, pollution problems occur because of commercial and residential activity. Citizens frequently burn litter, cook with biomass and charcoal, and use diesel generators as a backup for the electricity grid. In 2010, there was a destructive earthquake that made exposures grow. The filter used by researchers to measure air pollution blackened in as little as half an hour.

Another serious pollution issue in Haiti is associated with sewage problems. Port-au-Prince, one of the biggest cities in the country, does not have a central sewage system. There are no sewers that would join toilets, showers, and sinks to large wastewater treatment plants. Over 3 million residents use outhouses, the majority of waste from which passes to ditches, channels, and other unsanitary grounds. As a result, much of drinking water becomes contaminated, and various illnesses are spread. The greatest obstacle to building the sewage system is the lack of funds. Several international donors attempted to help Haiti construct the sewage system. Starting in 2010, these groups have spent millions of dollars planning how to build sewage treatment plants in Haiti.

The problem with international donations is that countries offering help can also claim some rights in Haiti. Thus, Haiti’s leaders gradually become more dependent on their funders than on citizens. Such a situation is not favorable for the people living in Haiti. Whereas the government is trying to solve their problems by accepting help from abroad, at the same time, people’s interests are not taken into consideration to the full extent. As a result of these misunderstandings, the construction of the sewage treatment plant initiated in 2010 was not finished. It is crucial to deal with this problem since waste eventually moves into the ocean, which contaminates marine life and leads to destructive changes in water.

Resource exploitation. Although Haiti is rich in resources, its citizens have hardly any access to them. The country faces such severe problems as deforestation, the lack of freshwater, food insecurity, and overpopulation. One of the greatest issues faced by Haitians that is associated with resource exploitation is the lack of freshwater. The mentioned environmental issues pose a threat to people’s lives. In particular, deforestation is the cause of such severe problems as soil erosion, flooding, and the decline in agricultural productivity. The valuable marine and coastal resources of Haiti have been corrupted by overfishing and sediment deposit. As a result, there has been a substantial loss in the country’s biodiversity.

Due to the considerable loss of forests, hurricanes’ and storms’ probability has been intensified. Persistent droughts and heavy downpours lead to numerous floods. Only two years ago, Haitians experienced the end of the extreme El Niño drought. In general, the country frequently faces unfavorable weather and climate issues, such as hurricanes, the lack of rainfall, and droughts. The major reason for these natural phenomena is the excessive exploitation of resources. Not only farmers suffer from such weather conditions, but also ordinary citizens do. Daily water needs are not satisfied due to the lack of freshwater, and people have to live in anti-sanitary conditions.

Another issue to be taken into consideration is Haiti’s mineral resource exploitation. The country is rich in some of such resources, but the problem is that citizens do not benefit from them. International experts agree that Haiti must avoid the resource curse. By this term, specialists mean the potential problems that the country might face if it agrees to sign contracts with mining companies from abroad. Oxfam America, the international relief and development organization, urges the Haitian government to consider any agreements associated with mining extremely carefully.

An outline of a plan to fix the problem

Several important issues should be included in the problem fixation plan.

The major of these are:

  1. the construction of the sewage system and the sewage treatment plant;
  2. the elimination of air pollution;
  3. the development of productive mining to prevent the resource curse;
  4. the creation of a project aimed at ending deforestation.

Each of these activities presupposes thorough preparation and cannot be performed by a few people in a few weeks or months. However, the collaboration between the government, citizens, and foreign donors can lead to productive changes in a few years. All of the issues included in the plan of action are important, but probably the most dangerous is the one concerned with sewage. It is necessary to continue the work that was started in 2010 and then paused.

The construction of the sewage system and the sewage treatment plant

The major reason for interrupting the work in 2012 was the demand of landowners to receive compensation. As it was mentioned by activists, there were at least two or three claims for the pieces of land that were to be engaged in the process of the sewage treatment plant construction. Therefore, the first duty of the government in this respect is to deal with the land rights and negotiate the use of land with real owners. It is crucial to explain to farmers that their discomfort will be temporary, whereas the benefits for millions of people will be permanent.

To persuade landowners to comply, the government might offer them some long-term agreements to buy their products. The approximate expected cost of the project is $3-4 million. It was $2.1 million in 2010. Taking into consideration the changes that occurred in the financial world between 2010 and 2018, it is unlikely that the cost will be smaller. The first results are expected to be seen in half a year after the construction. It is anticipated that there will be less contamination to marine life, and the diseases are anticipated to stop spreading at a high rate.

The elimination of air pollution

One of the most severe causes of air pollution is the amount of waste in the streets. It is necessary to engage the population in dealing with this problem since people are both the producers of waste and consumers of the polluted air. The most appropriate way of persuading citizens to participate in the waste reduction campaign is to offer them payment for collecting a certain amount of garbage. Raymond remarks that there are many informal waste-pickers in the country, and it is time to make their efforts justified and appreciated. The level of poverty in Haiti is rather high, so there are quite good chances to engage many people as waste-collectors for a moderate payment. This part of the plan might require several thousand dollars to start. The money will be spent on bags and transportation, as well as payment to workers. The first results might be seen in 2-3 months of work.

Another solution is much more costly but also very beneficial. It would be a good idea to build a waste-recycling plant in Haiti where all the collected plastic could be turned into useful materials and goods. Currently, some activists are introducing the initiative “social plastic” in Haiti. This project helps to open recycling markets as well as give poor citizens an opportunity to earn some money. By combining the efforts of this campaign with constructing a recycling plant, the country could start cooperating with foreign investors and increase its air quality. This part of the plan is expected to cost several million dollars and to take approximately two years.

The development of productive mining in order to prevent the resource curse

To successfully arrange this issue, Haiti needs to learn the experience of other countries. It is necessary to avoid the most common mistakes. At the same time, it is obvious that cooperation needs to be arranged. Thus, the government should investigate the condition of its resources, their amount, and prospects. Further, it is crucial to develop a mining plan that would benefit both people and nature and would not cause harm to the environment. The cost of this project cannot be identified at the moment. The primary negotiations and the first mining efforts may be regulated in several months.

The creation of a project aimed at ending deforestation

This part of the plan is quite long-term since growing new forests in place of the destroyed ones is not a matter of even several years. However, the initial efforts may be started as soon as several weeks or months. The cost of the project may be several thousand dollars that will be spent on plants and seeds and on salary for workers. It is possible to make some other efforts, such as making charcoal from waste biomass and conservation.