The water crisis in Port au Prince

Helena writes*

Port au Prince is currently dealing with a serious water crisis due to poor management and unequal distribution of water. Several stakeholders, namely the private sector and La Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement, are involved in the development of water supplies. As there is enough water available in Haiti, there is a better future that can be achieved, but for that better governance, collaboration and improvement of water infrastructures will be needed.

Unequal distribution and poor management [pdf] are the main reasons why Haiti is facing a water crisis. After the 2010 earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic, an urgent improvement in water services was needed [pdf] to respond to the increasing demand for water.  Arising from the lack of action from the part of the government, the private sector had to take over the water supplies and sanitation [pdf] in the capital of the country, Port au Prince. As Port au Prince is going through unplanned urbanization and rapid growth, the private sector was facing quite a challenge regarding the organisation of water supplies in this city. However, even if the situation was tough, the private sector succeeded to meet the needs of a significant part of the population as it is currently providing water to 57% of the citizens of the capital.

There is not only the private sector that is involved in the water management of Port au Prince. La Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement (DINEPA), which was established by the Haitian government in 2009, also plays an important role in water management. The motives of DINEPA are assuring safely managed sanitation services, making sure that the private sector has the ability to meet the increasing demand and encourages collaboration with several authorities to establish the needed legal and regulatory framework [pdf].

The lack of water management leading to poor water infrastructures resulted in severe degradation of water quality [pdf] over the past decades. When water quality decreases significantly, water becomes contaminated and can lead to the outbreak of infectious diseases such as an epidemic of cholera. In Port au Prince, the degradation of water quality was due to the contamination of the aquifer Plaine du Cul de Sac, which is providing up to 60% water to the city [pdf]. The situation got worse as the share of the population having access to water over the past 20 years has fallen by 4 percent. Now only 58% of the population has access to water services, and 30% of these water structures are in a poor state.

The World Bank is asking the government and more specifically DINEPA to take action.

In addition to the lack of water management, Port au Prince is facing serious inequalities when it comes to the distribution of water. DINEPA and the World Bank initiated in 2015 a project called “Budget Programme par Objectifs” to fight unequal distribution. This project aims to improve water sanitation and improve access to clean water for everybody. This initiative illustrates that collaboration amongst stakeholders will help to solve the crisis Port au Prince is currently experiencing. This will help to attain the aimed objectives namely a sustainable service, equal access and distribution and efficient governance. Finally, regular maintenance and daily supervising of water supplies [pdf] will also improve the situation by ensuring a better quality of the water.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

One thought on “The water crisis in Port au Prince”

  1. Dear Helena,
    I wonder who regulates the private utilities in Port au Prince. It might be silly but privatization is not Always much better than the government regulated utilities. It would nice to know in order to see which prospects are there for the city. On another note I was thinking if there is any alternative to groundwater. Surface water could be more controlled if efficient investments on water quality controls will be implemented. Groundwater is naturally polluted by the lithology of the location. That is why, althought aquifer Plaine du Cul de Sac provides 60% of the potable drinking water to the city, finding smaller sources of water which can serve different districts to avoid just supplying a part of the population will be interesting.
    Keep up the good work, this is a great start!

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