The question of what to do with the shantytowns (or “bidonvilles”) that have come to define Port-au-Prince over the years has haunted politicians and urban professionals alike. Le Nouvelliste, Haiti’s oldest daily newspaper, has reported in an article published on March 12, 2013 that the Martelly-Lamothe government has decided to adopt the notion put forward by Georges Anglade in 1991 that these communities are here to stay, and therefore should be retrofitted with the infrastructure that is sorely missing. These communities would be provided with common resources such as water, electricity, sanitation, etc. without moving anyone or questioning land tenure.
For anyone who has seen any one of these communities with constructions done with no particular order, one can appreciate how daunting the task of retrofitting these areas will be. More importantly, however, is whether such an undertaking will be done within a larger plan that will prevent future shantytowns in the first place. I for one cannot imagine shantytowns (even with access to water, sanitation, electricity, etc.) being the model for development for the country. Many questions come to mind; would there be zoning laws enacted, building construction codes established, if they do not already exist? Would these rules be strictly enforced and uniformly applied?
Nelly O, EE, MBA