Canal Rubble Clearance Gathers Momentum Ahead of Rainy Season

Date Publish: 
07/12/10
Region-Country: 
Haiti / America

A group of twenty volunteers wearing yellow t-shirts with a
government of Haiti logo are hard at work emptying a canal
choc-a-block with rubbish and rubble in the outskirts of
Cité Soleil, one of the capital's impoverished and
overcrowded neighbourhoods.

Equipped with boots, gloves and masks, they wield machetes and
spades to clear the undergrowth and remove the garbage from "Projet
Drouillard", a canal that used to channel rain waters away from the
rickety houses that cramp Cité Soleil.

Since early April 2010, IOM with funding from the US Agency for
International Development (USAID) has lent its support to the
government of Haiti in its efforts to clear tens of thousands of
tons of accumulated rubbish from several key canals to mitigate the
risks of flooding ahead of the rainy
season.    

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"In less than three weeks, IOM teams cleared more than 100,000
tons of trash and rubble from canals in Port-au-Prince", says Nader
Joiséus, an engineer by training who has the challenging
task of supervising canal clearance for Haiti's ministry of public
works.  He adds that this represents more than 6,250
truckloads, each filled to the brim with 16 tons of rubbish.

"We even managed to scrub canal St George clean of all garbage
thanks to IOM's support, a task which the municipality had failed
to complete in the past because of a lack of means".

To complete this vital canal clearance work, IOM employs a team
of 25 engineers, each responsible for clearing a section with the
help of mechanical diggers and other heavy lifting equipment. For
areas not accessible to machines, such as sections under bridges or
in overcrowded neighbourhoods, IOM has set up a cash-for-work
programme to employ local residents in need of work.

Short term contracts were signed with the engineers, who were
also responsible for teams of local workers who were paid on a
daily basis.

"IOM supervises the work of daily labourers to make sure the
clearing project moves ahead", says Philippe, a community leader
from Cité Soleil.

Colette has lived for 36 years in Cannibale, a sector of
Cité Soleil that remained mostly "out-of-bounds" because of
chronic insecurity. She says this is the first time this canal has
been cleared of rubbish.

"Only a month ago, you couldn't see this canal because it was so
full", says Jim Kelly Guiteau, a local engineer hired by IOM. He
says in some areas, the canal had to be excavated from
scratch.      

Colette welcomes this clearing work noting that, "Rains used to
push many people to seek refuge on the roof of their houses. Those
who could afford it left the sector sometime ago".

IOM has been working for several years now with the Haitian
Ministry of Public Work to build canals and other vital public
infrastructure.

Without proper garbage disposal mechanisms, residents have for
many years used canals as a dumping ground for household garbage,
with sometimes lethal consequences when rain waters are not
properly evacuated towards the sea.

Nader Joseius acknowledges that this important canal clearing
work must continue, at least for the duration of the six-month
rainy season. Funding from USAID will ensure this vital need is
fulfilled.

The first phase of canal clearance was finalized in mid May. In
some cases, IOM and its partners had to convince local residents
that it was in their best interests to move away from the immediate
vicinity of the canal so as to allow the construction of solid
walls to channel the rain waters.

Cash-for-work programmes have also been implemented for
residents of the Delmas neighbourhood, who were employed to build
containment parapets. For Manno, a local stone mason who has lived
for a decade within yards of the canal, this programme was the best
thing that could happen to him and his family.

Not only did he earn cash for his work but his environment has
been made much more secure.

© IOM/Haiti Press Network 2010 (Photo: Mackendy Jean-Baptiste)