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Since the earthquake in Haiti, efforts there have shifted from emergency relief to recovery. And some of the decisions being made now will affect Haitians for decades to come. That's why some have been trying to develop a recovery plan that fixes problems far older than those created by the quake.

NPR's Richard Harris has that story.

RICHARD HARRIS: Even though housing the homeless is still a crisis in Haiti, front loaders and backhoes are already hard at work clearing away some of the 200,000-plus buildings that were hopelessly damaged by the quake.

(Soundbite of machinery)

HARRIS: People picked through the rubble to salvage steel reinforcing bar, wood and other material that can be reused or recycled. Dump trucks pick up the rest, but as yet there's not a formal plan about where to put it, so they improvise.

(Soundbite of vehicles)

HARRIS: We're on the shoulder of National Road Number Two, about 15 minutes out of Port-au-Prince. We're standing next to a sign that's erected by the Ministry of Tourism saying don't dump stuff here, but in fact, it's exactly what's going on here. This is a massive dumping ground from crumbled up concrete block that has been hauled out of Port-au-Prince.

(Soundbite of rustling)

HARRIS: Scramble up the rumble and you'll see debris for as far as the eye can see. So Haiti hasn't really solved the problem, it has just moved the material from one place to another.

Muralee Thummarukudy from the United Nations Environment Program had been hoping to avoid precisely this kind of problem.

Dr. MURALEE THUMMARUKUDY (United Nations Environment Program): This material is extremely valuable and it might even have a commercial value in, you know, in few months, but that is not realized at this point of time.

HARRIS: Chunks of broken cinderblock may not be suitable for rebuilding Port-au-Prince, but no doubt they can be put to use if Haiti decides to tackle some of its festering problems, such as the lack of an adequate road system, or the need for hurricane shelters along the low coastal plain.

Dr. THUMMARUKUDY: There will be temporary roads which will need to be built. There will have to be land which has to be raised so that, you know, when the hurricane season come, the new camps, which will be set up, are above the flooding level.

HARRIS: Debris disposal is one of the most visible issues in Port-au-Prince, but there are many other decisions now that could affect Haiti for decades to come.

(Soundbite of crowd)

HARRIS: Sewage issues get hashed out at the hillside offices of the nation's water and sewer authority DINEPA. This is one of the rare public buildings in Port-au-Prince that survived the quake. Still, meetings take place under a gazebo in the garden.

Pierre Yves Rochat, who works for the agency, is trying to deal with both the crisis and Haiti's long-term needs.

Mr. PIERRE YVES ROCHAT (Water/Sanitation Engineer, DINEPA): We hope that by dealing with sanitation in emergency, we are going to get our lesson learned to improve sanitation in a normal situation.

HAMILTON: Port-au-Prince is one of the largest cities in the world that doesn't have a central sewer system. It uses mostly septic tanks and pit toilets. That's not likely to change.

Mr. ROCHAT: I think sanitation, sewage system, it's a very large scale. It's not really a pragmatic solution, I would say.

HARRIS: But Rochat says it might be possible to install some more centralized septic systems so that waste could be trucked away and treated according to international standards. There's even a bigger long-term question, which is whether it's worth trying to rebuild Port-au-Prince.

Andrew Morton, who's the United Nation's chief earthquake scientist in Haiti, says, sure, you can rebuild structures that will be strong enough to survive the next inevitable quake, but at what cost?

Dr. ANDREW MORTON (Chief Earthquake Scientist, United Nations, Haiti): Is it affordable and is it appropriate to spend that money on very, very heavy investment, essentially in concrete, when the budget should also be balanced against essential social services like education and health, et cetera? So it comes down as a question of money.

HARRIS: And if the money's there, how about using it to replant trees across Haiti's deforested countryside, or to restore the nation's badly degraded farmland? Big ideas and big aspirations are necessary, but Kim Bolduc, who heads the U.N. humanitarian efforts in Haiti, says they aren't enough.

Ms. KIM BOLDUC (Deputy Special Representative, United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti): You know that the international community has been present in Haiti for a long time, many decades. We still cannot say that we did a good job on Haiti, and this is maybe the chance for us to do it.

HARRIS: And it's not too early to be thinking about this. There's a huge international conference in about a month to establish long-term funding for Haiti. So people need to be planning now.

Richard Harris, NPR News.

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