Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Excerpts from Starting from scratch in Haiti's Port-au-Prince ruins

A woman walks down a devastated street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. From Seattle
The excerpts below are a clear update for the talks and possible plans for Haiti reconstruction.  Below, you'll find the link to read the complete article.

By Andres Viglucci and Scott Hiasen
In The Seattle Times. Nation and World
January 24th 2010
 Speaking to an American audience on C-SPAN, the Haitian ambassador to the United States recently sketched an optimistic future for the island nation's capital city Port-au-Prince — a smaller, well-built city to replace the teeming, chaotic and shoddily built sprawl of almost 3 million people that was virtually wiped away by the Jan. 12 earthquake.
 Not only did the earthquake take untold lives, it destroyed the core of authority: the National Palace, the parliament, the police headquarters and 13 of the government's 15 ministries. And the two surviving ministries have been declared unsafe. Entire neighborhoods may have to be razed and rebuilt.
 With so many obstacles, and no ready blueprint, the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince will be a minefield of hard questions with no clear answer, experts say.
"The first question is, whose Port-au-Prince is being rebuilt?" said Lawrence Vale, an urban-planning professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology specializing in disaster recovery. "Who is really empowered here? And where will the resources that come from outside be targeted?"
The scale and strategy of the reconstruction are so far unknown. The United Nations will convene a meeting of foreign ministers this week in Montreal to begin discussing long-term plans.
 Experts warn, however, that such mass-relocation schemes in other catastrophes have usually failed, because they isolate people from the jobs and economic opportunity that drew them to the city in the first place.
The head of the International Monetary Fund has called for a Haiti "Marshall Plan," invoking the reconstruction efforts in Germany and Japan after World War II. But development experts caution that any long-term plans must not be imposed on Haiti by outsiders.
 The ultimate cost is anyone's guess, although at a weekend discussion of architects, academics and government officials under a tree in Petionville, the number $3 billion was offered by Patrick Delatour, an architect and Haiti's minister of tourism charged with evaluating the destruction.
 Virtually everyone agrees that any recovery will take decades.
Ben Ramalingam, who studies disasters around the world and the effectiveness of the responses, argues that Haiti is worse off than the dozen countries swamped by the tsunami, because they at least still had working governments that could help citizens and channel aid.
Given the circumstances, experts say the best scenario for Haiti would have massive amounts of foreign aid channeled through nongovernmental organizations, both large and small, financing grass-roots programs to rebuild neighborhoods, with technical assistance supplied by the United States — while the government focuses on infrastructure and rebuilding important civic structures.
Reconstruction — informal and unregulated — will probably begin long before any long-range plan takes hold. Residents accustomed to scavenging and desperate for shelter may simply rebuild shantytowns rather than wait months or years for government action. Families with remittances from relatives abroad may also get a head start on rebuilding.
NGOs also will likely begin tackling small-scale projects, like homes and schools, just as many did before the earthquake — though perhaps with help from outside architects and engineers, with stronger quake resistance.
Architecture for Humanity's Sinclair said he already is talking to groups in Haiti about providing designs for simple schools and homes like those it developed in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami.
To be successful, any Port-au-Prince reconstruction plan must incorporate strong building standards and better planning, to minimize the effects of future earthquakes or storms, said Richard Stuart Olson, a Florida International University political-science professor who studies the political effects of disasters.
"Who is going to enforce plan review, engineering, design and construction? This will fall to the international community, or the U.N. or U.S.," Olson said.
In an effort to move homeless victims out of Port-au-Prince, a Brazilian team already has started bulldozing Croix-des-Bouquets, eight miles outside the city, to make way for temporary housing for 10,000 people. A second location in Tabarre near the U.S. embassy also has been identified for 4,000 people and many other areas inside the city may end up also getting cleared to bare ground.

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