The once beautiful, tropical island of Haiti has lost its appeal to the eyes of it citizens due to massive population growth and decreasing availability of food and nutrition resources. Haiti is comprised of the western most part of the island of Hispaniola while the Dominican Republic occupies the other eastern two thirds of the island. Barriers such as deforestation, poor soil content, economic downfall, and weather have placed Haiti as the poorest country in the western hemisphere. “One of the distinguishing features of Haiti is that it is a small, densely populated (266.5 persons/km) and predominantly rural country. In 1998, about 75% of the population lived under the poverty line. Nearly 70% of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, which consists mainly of small-scale subsistence farming and employs about two-thirds of the economically active force.”(Aquastat, 2000) The main cause of environmental and economical problems of Haiti is its poor government administration. Haiti gets millions of dollars in aid for environmental issues, but that doesn’t seem to help Haiti’s problems. ” Over two thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs and live on small scale subsistence farms which scarcely produce enough crops to feed their families.”(Ryneer, Anna) The average Haitian family survives on what they can harvest themselves. They are more concerned about feeding their children rather than selling their goods. This is the reason why big cities are getting more and more populated because people move there in search of better life and better opportunities. At the same time, this is also a problem because resources are getting scarce. Water, for example, is a very scarce resource in Haiti. Environmental degradation has enormous effects on Haiti. The health of millions of Haitians is threatened by contaminated drinking water, resulting from long outdated and trash-filled opened sewers.
Water Resources in Haiti
Water is available in various ways in Haiti. It is not that there’s no water available in Haiti. It is the fact of finding safe/uncontaminated water. “Haiti has 12.11 km3 of internal renewable water resources plus 0.9 km3 of external renewable water resources that come from the Artibonite River from the Dominican Republic. Currently, only about 7.5% of the renewable water resources are utilized, of which 7.1% for irrigation. The rivers’ water flow is characterized by wide seasonal fluctuation, partly because of rainfall irregularity, but also because of erosion and deforestation of catchments.”(Aquastat, 2000) In other words, there are many ways in which water can be found in Haiti. “Given the rainfall and abundant water resources, there is adequate water to meet the water demands, but proper management to develop and maintain the water supply requirements is lacking. However, the water supply sector is undergoing complete transformation. Although currently there is no comprehensive water policy, progress is being made towards establishing a national water resources management policy.”( US Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District and Topographic Engineering Center, 1999) Therefore, the lack of potable water for basic human needs is a critical problem in Haiti.
People have access to rivers, basins, oceans, and lakes. In fact, most Haitians go to these bodies of water to get water with buckets in order to fulfill their needs.
Water Supply in Haiti
There are many agencies that supply water in the country. They are all government agencies. “Water supply is provided by three Government agencies, several non-government organizations (NGO’s), along with various private and religious relief groups. The two leading Government
agencies, the Centrale Autonome Metropolitaine d’Eau Potable (CAMEP) and the Service National d’Eau Potable (SNEP) are within MTPTC. The third agency, the Poste Communautaire d’Hygiene et d’Eau Potable (POCHEP), is within the Ministre de la Sant Publique et de la Population (MSPP). CAMEP is responsible for water supply to Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. SNEP is responsible for water supply to the smaller cities and rural areas, while POCHEP concentrates on rural areas with populations of less than 2,000.”( US Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District and Topographic Engineering Center, 1999) These agencies provide water to the population for a fee. Due to economical problems in Haiti, many people cannot afford to buy the water provided by these agencies. Most fortunate people are able to build cisterns under their houses in order to conserve water. Most of the surface water is either contaminated or saline. Regardless, people choose to use that water with little or no treatment.
Uses of Water in Haiti
In Haiti, people use water for many purposes. As we all know, we use water for basic human needs such as drinking, clothes washing, cooking, showering etc. Water is probably the most important resource we as people have. Humans can survive without food for several weeks, but without water we would die in less than a week.
Haiti uses water for industrial needs. “Annually, the food-processing industry (i.e., juice, carbonated drinks, beer) in the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac (Cul-de-Sac Plain) uses more than 4 million cubic meters of water. Ground water, obtained from about 800 wells, is the primary source of this water.” (US Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District and Topographic Engineering Center, 1999) Haiti also uses water for agricultural needs. They use water for crops and animals. “Surface water flows directly into a great number of irrigation systems The quantity of surface water available for irrigation is decreasing due to deforestation About 80 percent of the total quantity of water utilized in the country is for irrigation. In 1996 an estimated 1,170 million cubic meters of water was used for irrigation. A 1996 report listed the total number of irrigation projects at 128, serving a total area of about 70,000 hectares. However, because of system malfunctions and losses, only about 42,000 hectares are irrigated on a regular basis. (US Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District and Topographic Engineering Center, 1999)
There are many other aspects in which water is need in Haiti but due to deforestation, water is very scarce.
Deforestation (A major cause of lack of water)
Deforestation is a major cause of the lack of water in Haiti. Due to economic problems, Haitians do not have the financial resources in order to get electricity, and heat. Therefore, most people use wood make charcoal in order to have these needs. This is why Haiti’s mountains do not have trees. They use wood for construction of houses, and to cook. “Deforestation accelerates soil erosion, decreases the amount of recharge to aquifers by increasing surface runoff, damages barrier reefs and ecosystems, increases turbidity which affects mangroves, decreases agricultural production, and causes problems and increased maintenance of water systems and impoundmentsAs of April 1998, only 3 of the 35 gaging stations and 25 percent of the hydrometeorological gages were functional. The technical information obtained from such a network is critical for effective water resources management.” (US Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District and Topographic Engineering Center, 1999)
Wastes in Haiti
Haiti has a major problem with waste management. Everywhere in major cities, there are piles of trash on a corner of a street. There’s not a good waste management system in Haiti in order to keep the streets clean. Trash can be piled up in a corner for weeks. Also, Haiti doesn’t have a good drainage system. Therefore, when it rains the water comes down with waste and the surface water gets contaminated. Also, the pipelines are contaminated because people break the lines in order to get water. “Raw sewage and industrial wastes contaminate water sourcesPipeline distribution systems contribute to contamination because of breaks in the lines caused by residents illegally tapping into the systemThere is no municipal sewage system in Haiti, and waste often flows into gutters, streams, and storm drains to contaminate surface water, the shoreline, and beaches.” (U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, 2006). In other words, there are many reasons why waste goes to contaminate water in Haiti. Drainage and sewage systems are very poor. “The collection and disposal of domestic solid waste poses a serious problem, particularly in Port-au-Prince and other large cities without adequate landfills. The situation within the rural areas is similar although on a smaller scale. The lack of domestic waste disposal has resulted in bacteriological pollution of several of the 18 springs supplying Port-au-Prince.” (US Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District and Topographic Engineering Center, 1999) The unfortunate have no choice but to get this water and try to treat it. The water treatment technique that they use is not fully effective and this is why they get different diseases associated with poor water quality.
This paper deals with water in Haiti but the basis of the water issues begins with deforestation and wastes. The water issue in Haiti is never going to be resolved.
Health effects of Water in Haiti
As we all know, there are major consequences in drinking contaminated water. It is important to have potable water for basic human needs. Haiti is definitely lacking potable water. The government is not doing anything towards this issue. For them, there are other aspects of the country that needs to be fixed. Such as kidnapping which is a major issue in Haiti right now. In other words, the water issue is last on their list.
There’s a high rate of malaria in Haiti. Malaria is caused when an infected mosquito bites a human being. The mosquito is infected from contaminated water. This is why people who live around contaminated water should be very careful because they will have high chances of getting the disease. There are many other health effects such as skin diseases when people take a shower with the contaminated water and tuberculosis. “The health of millions of Haitians is threatened by contaminated drinking water, resulting from long outdated and trash-filled opened sewers. As a result, diarrheal diseases, including malaria, have killed an exorbitant number of Haitians.”(Isinor, Yves A., 2001). In other words, many people have died from this disease.
Water is probably the most important resource we as people have. Humans can survive without food for several weeks, but without water we would die in less than a week. Despite our dependence on water, we use it as a dumping ground for all sorts of waste, and do very little to protect the water supplies we have.
Haiti is among the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Haiti has many issues to deal with such as, politically, economically, the starvation throughout the population, kidnapping, and many environmental problems. The environmental issue is the last of our concern. It’s a shame to see Haiti in this way, but at the same time there are many positive aspects of Haiti but not one seems to see those. It is mostly the negative parts that are talked about, and that are shown on television.
The water issue in Haiti will never be resolved. This is why more and more Haitians will die of diseases related with contaminated water.