Whatever events occur in Haiti, it seems that people tend to hold on to what was instead of what the potential for a better future. At no time has this been truer than now. With all of the plans being floated around to redo Haiti, few of them are taking a broader view that to rebuild Port-au-Prince, you have to look beyond it and explore the potential of the other cities and other areas that can take the pressure off the teeming capital city.
Hope is an empty word if it is not based on some ideas, concepts or plans. As much surprises as the future may hold, in most instances, they will be the results of initiatives taken after well thought personal and/or collective considerations. In “Saving Public Housing By Building Anew”, Roy Strickland (Nov. 29, 2009) observed that New York’s public housing has suffered years of federal divestment, putting its future viability in doubt.
“When a team of urban designers explored the Lower East Side projects’ open spaces, they found potential for NYCHA to not merely survive, but thrive. It was “an international team of graduate students from the University of Michigan Master of Urban Design Program [who] spent a semester exploring the redevelopment potential of public housing projects on the Lower East Side, one of the greatest concentrations of such projects in the country”, [who] proposed that the projects’ open spaces (more than 80 percent of their land area) be used for development…”
Initiatives like that should inspire those who talking about rebuilding Haiti and more specifically Port-au-Prince. By now, all those involved in the process of “saving Haiti today” should recognize the major error of the past to reduce the country to the limits of its capital. At the time of US occupation, followed by too long periods of sterile dictatorships that caused the closing a dozen of ports in the country and the squeezing of many cities, Haiti had lost a lot of vitality that forced too many people to immigrate to the capital, in addition to all those who came because of lack of support in the vital area of agriculture.
Like the international team of graduate students from the University of Michigan, Those in charge should survey the whole country to determine all available lands for “building anew” Haiti. In doing so, they must remember to consult the existing populations in order to determine the kind of development that will better served each particular community. In doing so, the “experts” might be surprised of the quality of cooperation they will receive, will discovering the hidden value of human resources the country is endowed.
Haiti as a whole need to be “Built Anew” for a greater future not simply “Rebuilt” on the ruins of the past.