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Bande du Nord


Plans are developing for the ecological rehabilitation of a mountainside area Bande du Nord bordering Cap Haitien, the 19th century French former capital of Haiti.

There are many problems to be overcome.



Housing:

The mountain as been over-run by illegal squatters. Home-made houses are being put up all the time. Legal houses are being surrounded at an alarming rate.

Health:

Human and animal faeces occupy nearly every available uninhabited space including in washing and drinking areas.

Animals:

Pigs and goats wander untethered destroying any enterprising attempts at agriculture - legal or illegal.

Ecology:

Erosion and scouring is taking place at an alarming rate. Gullies of 5 meters depth are clearly visible and deepening. Potable water from natural springs is poorly managed and much is wasted. Trees are cut for charcoal and fire-wood and for space. Trees are dying as their roots are severed in self-help squatter-building enterprises. Erosion is so drastic that existing tree roots cannot bind the top-soil and trees can stand 1 meter proud of the present ground level, ready to die and topple.

Quartzite bed-rock is becoming visible from which topsoil recovery may soon be impossible. The other predominant rock is a soft carbonate containing shells and quartz nodules. This crumbles and weathers quickly when exposed. Huge free- standing boulders are being undermined by human activity and erosion. The rocks are set to roll down the mountainside crushing all in their path. Legal houses are being undermined by eroded land.


Society:

Yet another generation is growing up with no schooling, experience of employment or meaningful social or cultural education beyond that arising from surviving in a slum. There appears to be no means to individually or collectively rise from the slum apart from crime.

Crime data has not been gathered.

Employment:

Unemployment is high. The only visible signs are of grey economy voluntary illegal house building and scavenging for resources for subsistence.

Assistance:

no NGO aid intervention was observed July 2007.

Economic regeneration:

The mountain could have been zoned for quality housing contributing to the economic recovery of the départment. (This still might just be possible); but as the squatters become more entrenched the task will become more difficult.

This potentially beautiful area, with a once charming ravine, natural springs and stunning views is an unsafe squalid tragedy which is becoming more so unless intervention is undertaken fast.

Justification

A complete restoration of the area is certainly not possible and probably undesirable as it would only draw more homeless to 'try their luck' in the area.
However a phased intervention is possible alleviating the worst of the health hazards, halting the ecological degradation and, given a chance for this plan to be completed, the opportunity for the area and population to contribute to the proposed economic tourism plan. Areas still exist for reforestation. The area has stunning views which should be capitalised on by building an observatory.

The time to act is now. As the dry season approaches the natural sluicing of filth will cease, clean water will be harder to find and disease will increase. Reforestation should be timed to coincide with the rainy season May-July 2008(?). If the slum spreads over the skyline to be visible from the sea the tourism earning potential could be slashed by millions of dollars.


Aims, general

The aim is a phased intervention beginning with emergency interventions to avert a health crisis and slow down ecological degradation so that recovery might be possible.

A strategy of community sensitization and some coercion will be needed but the community must be allowed to see immediate benefits in employment projects, improved animal husbandry, water management and cleanliness. Gardening and self- regulating community development should be clearly felt.

If sensitization is conducted well the community will also be able to recognise and appreciate the value of environmental and ecological measures like reforestation, road management and the halt of further degradation.

Infrastructure, building, employment and self-help projects will enhance the area and provide hope for the future.

The whole plan will be based on the premise that the area will be ready for an economic tourism bonus in ten years time.