The Environmental Cost of the Construction Boom in Haiti

New Media Fellows 2013

By Sokari Ekine

October 28, 2013

Also published at Black Looks

The construction boom in Haiti--driven by Diasporan money, UN [MINUSTAH] and government funds--is destroying the local environment around the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Hillsides are being cut away and river beds decimated to feed the huge demand for rock and gravel for personal homes, warehouses and post earthquake reconstruction by the government–in short everything but low cost housing.

I took these photos of the river Grise at Fatimah on the edge of Pernier where I live. In 2010 you could cross the river and take one step up to the village which you can see in the distance. Now the river bed has been dug as much as 30 feet deep in some places, forcing villagers to make a steep perilous climb after negotiating the river, which at times can be deep and fast flowing [See last photo]. Neither the government nor the companies have bothered to build steps or a platform for local people to access their village.

The mining of the river bed occurs all day, every day and there are four companies operating in this location. They pay a government tax for the privilege of destroying the river. The construction boom has also brought with it an influx of monster trucks in various states of disrepair which plow the narrow streets and blow out thick black smoke.

Earlier this year, local residents–mainly small family farmers who rely on the river for their irrigation and water for animals–held a series of protests against the mining of the river and the trucks which operate day and night. One person was shot and killed by the police, which ended the protests for the time being.

The irony is that, while the real river beds are being eroded, the make-up of roads is such that they are turning into river beds, with deposits of silt and pebbles mixed in with flood water. The road from Frere to Clericine via Tabarre is an example of this.

Sokari Ekine is reporting on health and development as a fellow with the International Reporting Project (IRP).

Also appeared in…