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Implementation of a micro-zoning project in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince
Richener NOEL, April 2012

The micro-zoning project commissioned by the Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation involves a detailed evaluation of rock types in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince. It will cover approximately 80 km2, from Martissant to the Grise river, (Croix-des-Bouquets), from the coast to Kenskoff in the hills. Its objective is to draw up a large-scale map of this area according to the capacity of the rock in relation to the different known risks: from floods to seismic risks. This study also aims to establish the effects of possible earthquakes, by studying the physical properties of different geological layers. More generally, the research will allow faults to be identified more precisely as well as their movements with a view to improved prevention. The project is currently being run by the Laboratoire national des Bâtiments et des Travaux publics (LNBTP), the Bureau des Mines et de l’Énergie (BME), the Centre national d’Informations géo-spatiales (CNIGS) and the Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM, France).

After the metropolitan region, in 18 months time, the project will focus on other high-risk cities (Cap-Haïtien, Fort-Liberté and Port-de-Paix) during its second phase which is due to last three years.

The head of one of the institutions which is very involved in the project recognizes that the map of risks and vulnerabilities which will be produced is not a prerequisite to reconstruction. A lot of reconstruction work on public and non-public buildings is already underway, while this project is only just starting. Other soil assessments are perhaps being used as a basis for these projects. Indeed, a map has already been drawn up based on a macro-zoning project in the metropolitan region carried out by the team of Professor Rathje from the University of Texas, with the LNBTP and the BME, in 2010, which was a more general evaluation of seismic behaviour in the metropolitan region. The 16/6 project (16 neighbourhoods/6 camps) also has a component which concerns the estimation of vulnerabilities in Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods.

This map will be an excellent urbanism document to help decision-making in the future. But only the politicians are in a position to know whether it will really be used. A lot of important research has been carried out on fundamental issues but have been filed away and forgotten. Incapable of applying them, the authorities often commission new studies and conferences because, amongst other things, it is easier to talk than to act. What has happened to the territorial plan of 1982? Many complain that there is no plan, but the territorial plan of 1982, which was drawn up by the Haitian state, was a 25-year plan.

Concerns therefore remain. Is a new plan going to be produced on the basis of this map? Are different visions and actions going to be inserted and brought together within the limits of the restrictions established by the studies? Are application and follow-up mechanisms going to be reinforced by reinforcing territorial structures?

We do not have the answers to these questions, but there will be opportunities to express our opinions about these issues.