Environment

Haitian Capital Seeks Solutions to Insufficient Solid Waste Disposal

 

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Sylvia Janvier sells pork and lard at Haiti’s largest and busiest market, Marché de la Croix-des-Bossales. She says market conditions are unsanitary. Marie Michelle Felicien, GPJ Haiti
Haiti

With the Port-au-Prince metro area producing 1,400 to 1,600 metric tons of waste daily, proper control will be a formidable and costly task. But officials hope that educating vendors and students about the dangers – and imposing new penalties – will curtail the problem.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — The huge market known as Marché de la Croix-des-Bossales is at its peak this afternoon, with customers shuffling past hawkers and dodging mounds of trash. For 30 years, Sylvia Janvier has been selling pork and lard here.

Waste management is a problem at this 70,000-square-meter (753,473-square-foot) market, the largest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Garbage blocks the walkways and often piles up close to fresh produce, she says. Some vendors do not dispose of waste properly, the 53-year-old woman says, but authorities are to blame, too. The two are not collaborating, she explains.

“Everyone is looking forward to the day when unsanitary conditions will change, but things are getting worse instead of better,” Janvier says.

Service Métropolitain de Collecte de Résidus Solides (SMCRS) is in charge of solid waste collection in the capital and surrounding metropolitan areas. But for years, limited resources and labor have made it difficult for the state-appointed agency to keep certain areas clean. In a market where an estimated 110,000 tons of food are sold each day, officials are employing new approaches to reduce solid waste: awareness campaigns and penalties. These efforts have extended to other market grounds and public spaces.

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Mariette Paul sells tomatoes and onions in a part of Marché de la Croix-des-Bossales, where vendors dispose of solid waste. She wears boots to protect her feet from the waste and muddy puddles.

Marie Michelle Felicien, GPJ Haiti

According to Global Communities, an international nonprofit, the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince produces between 1,400 and 1,600 metric tons of waste each day, which is more than the amount deposited in the capital’s Truitier landfill, the country’s largest dump. Households generate about 80 percent of this waste, and markets produce 10 percent.

Bertrand Salomon, principal private secretary to the director of SMCRS, says many factors make it difficult to collect the large amounts of waste. A lack of capital is one. The government estimates that it would cost $370 million to increase solid waste collection from 20 percent to 90 percent by 2022, according to a 2012 Ministry of Public Health and Population report.

The amount of waste generated in Haiti will continue to grow in the coming years, experts say. Salomon says this calls for a shift in waste-management practices.

People litter the spaces where they conduct business, because they don’t know that the unsanitary conditions can cause disease, especially in high-density settings, he says.

Poor waste-management practices are common in households and schools, too, says Olrich Joly, spokesman for Port-au-Prince City Hall, which he says is conducting awareness campaigns to teach market vendors and students how to dispose of waste properly.

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Students at École Municipale Carl Brouard, a public school, participate in a cleanup exercise organized by authorities.

Marie Michelle Felicien, GPJ Haiti

Emanuse Osias, 16, is a student at École Municipale Carl Brouard, a public school, and she participates in one of city hall’s cleanup exercises to raise awareness.

“Before, I saw no problem if people dropped trash on the ground,” Osias says. “Today, however, I closely monitor my fellow community members and teach them the importance of keeping our environment clean, thanks to the training I received in my school.”

Dauphin Jean Wesner, a counselor at the school, says bringing the campaigns to schools is a smart move, because people will learn how to keep the environment clean while they’re still young, well before entering the workforce.

To complement the campaigns, Ralph Youri Chevry, Port-au-Prince’s mayor, declared littering in public spaces an offense punishable by a fine of 10,000 to 50,000 Haitian gourdes ($150 to $750).

Salomon says he is hopeful that the announcement, which came in May, will help to reduce the amount of waste found in Marché de la Croix-des-Bossales and other trading hubs.

Sylvestre Ndahayo, GPJ, translated the article from French.

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