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What lessons from the earthquake of 12 January 2010 have been learned for the reconstruction?
Caroline BROUDIC, July 2012

The consequences of the earthquake of 12 January were made worse by decades without regulation in the housing sector, and more generally in the urban planning sector, which led to the anarchic occupation of space, very poor building quality and high population density in areas with risks of natural disasters. Thus, just as the damage regularly done by cyclones cannot be considered inevitable, the disaster of 2010 was, above all, the result of a lack of urban planning and economic development. Is this analysis, which was widely shared in the wake of the earthquake, now central to the reconstruction? In other terms, do the policies which have been put in place since the disaster of 12 January reduce the risks that people would face in the event of another earthquake, cyclone or landslide?

The national shelter, housing and urban development policy drawn up by the Unité de Construction de Logements et de Bâtiments Publics (UCLBP) [1] is in the process of being finalised and should be made official in the coming weeks. It provides guidelines for the reconstruction not only for the affected area but more generally for territorial planning at the national level. Major works are planned for the metropolitan region, but there has been very little progress to date. “Two years after the earthquake of 12 January 2010, housing needs in Haiti are estimated to be 500 000 units. This estimate includes the 200 000 houses destroyed and damaged by the earthquake, according to the study of damages conducted by the government, and 300 000 additional houses, based on estimates of the housing shortage before the earthquake and forecasts that the population of Port-au-Prince will double in the next 17 years”.

The key areas identified by the Haitian government in 2010 for the reconstruction process and which required reforms were as follows:

  • Strategic urban and community planning and planning of economic development;
  • Territorial planning and development of the property market;
  • Financing of housing and development of the mortgage market;
  • The development of housing for people with low incomes, particularly rented accomodation; quality control in building construction;
  • Disaster risk management for housing and neighbourhoods and the creation of a housing insurance system;
  • The development, management and funding of local administration infrastructure.
  • One of the major issues during the reconstruction phase is linked to the management of timing considering that the reconstruction is due to take around ten years (and probably longer) whereas, in the very short term, there is the problem of people who have settled – or who are settling – in at risk areas or who still live in IDP camps. This question is all the more important in that it concerns the structural causes of the disaster and the realisation in the wake of the earthquake that there was a need for major changes in governance and in urban and rural development policy.

[1] UCLBP is directly attached to the Primature

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