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Haitians go home as government proposes relocation

Almost as soon as the earthquake hit Haiti on 12 January, urban planners and scientists dusted off plans to relocate some of Port-Au-Prince’s infrastructure away from the crowded city centre, which is dangerously close to the Enriquillo fault.

In discussions with the Haitian government last month, geophysicists advocated relocating critical city infrastructure to the north (See: Haiti earthquake may have primed nearby faults for failure, Nature News). Now, at a United Nations donors’ meeting today, Haitian officials are due to present their Action Plan for National Recovery and Development, which incorporates recommendations to rebuild some of Port-au-Prince’s infrastructure in provincial towns further from the fault (New York Times).

At the same time, some Haitians have begun returning to their homes, or at least the lots where their homes once stood, encouraged by relief agencies keen to avoid flooded refugee camps during the upcoming rainy season (Associated Press).

After the earthquake, many Port-au-Prince residents initially fled to provincial towns and refugee camps, giving Haitian planners a brief opportunity to rethink the overcrowded city of three million, where the last major sewage and electricity upgrade took place in the 1970s, according to the New York Times. The plans declares that “This is a rendezvous with history that Haiti cannot miss,” according to the National Post, though previous attempts began in 1987 and have failed since.

The current situation must be rectified soon, says one UN official.

“Some [temporary shelters] sit on flood plains and on hills, which is very dangerous and could lead to landslides. That would be a disaster. These people will have to be moved or it will be a catastrophe if they remain in these sites,” France Hurtubise, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told Reuters. Up to 250,000 people may be living in temporary shelters, with up to a million more displaced.

“I’d go somewhere else if it had everything I need,” one Haitian told the Associated Press, “But this is the place I live, I know it well.”

A 17 March 2010 version of the Haitian recovery plan is hosted by the NGO network Interaction: here.


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