PETIT GOAVE, Haiti (December 21, 2012) — The massive earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 destroyed the water system of Petit Goave, a coastal city near the quake’s epicenter.
Ageing iron pipes that had brought freshwater from the mountains into the city were damaged beyond repair. And simply fixing the leaks in the pipes was impossible; countless homes had been built over the web of pipes spread throughout the city.
Now, thanks to a UNICEF-supported effort with the French Red Cross, the water system has been rebuilt with new pipes and new safety measures to reduce the likelihood of future water shortages. The pipes run beneath the streets and are connected with a rubber-gasket system that provides a measure of protection against future earthquakes.
One of the beneficiaries is Tayet Rousseau, a mother of three whose business selling small goods was destroyed in the earthquake.
Rousseau now has a water tap that delivers clean, safe water to the front yard of her modest home not far from the city center. She says the system is even better than it was before the earthquake.
“Before, it was a big issue because there were water shortages,” she says. “We used to spend three days with no water. It was a real problem. We couldn’t do many activities.”
The new system, like the old system, begins at the source—in the mountains above town. Amidst a green forest covering the hills, a robust stream delivers a constant supply of clear water.
The French Red Cross has installed new pipes and built barriers, where needed, to protect against erosion and mudslides.
Water is delivered to a central station, where it is treated with chlorine to guard against cholera and other diseases. It is then diverted throughout the town.
Meters measure the flow. The water can be shut off and diverted to different areas at different times, thus preventing long shortages, and also protecting the system, if repairs are needed. This safety measure was not in place in the old system.
Sebastien Renou is an engineer with the French Red Cross. He has been working on the project since shortly after the earthquake. As he walks through town inspecting the new system, he’s greeted in Haitian Creole by the locals, who appreciate the new system and Renou’s commitment to seeing it through.
“We need to protect what is existing and very old,” he says. “This is the main objective of the French Red Cross. The second aim is quality. We have to protect the sources and the water tank and make water treatment to give potable water.”
Not only is the project providing the people of Petit Goave with a safe, reliable water source, it’s also giving them jobs. Much of the work on the ground is being done by DINEPA, Haiti’s National Authority for Water Supply and Sanitation, which also controls the project.
The project is just one example of a sustainable effort run by Haitians, benefiting Haitians. In this case, the big winners are the 70,000 residents of the Petit Goave area who now have reliable access to safe, clean water.