Watershed projects build climate change resilience in Haiti

Report
from UN Development Programme
Published on 29 Aug 2014 View Original

Finding dependable, clean water has always been a challenge for the people of Haiti. But in recent years, climate change has exacerbated the problem.

Many Haitians depend on rainwater and groundwater for their daily use. During periods of drought, some walk several kilometers in search of water. Often what they do find is of poor quality, leading to waterborne illnesses such as typhoid and diarrhoea.

Climate change has added to the problem by reducing groundwater recharge, leading to the loss of many local sources of drinking water.

UNDP in partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Environment and the regional office for drinking water and sanitation, has launched several pilot projects in the southeast of Haiti to improve both the availability and quality of water, in an effort to reduce vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

Using artificial methods to recharge groundwater as well as reforestation and soil conservation techniques, the projects aim to increase the resilience of people and of the ecosystems they depend on. For example, the construction of stone masonry walls in water catchment areas has helped conserve soil and improve water quality.

One project in particular improves drinking water systems by capturing water upstream from degraded sources and storing it in tanks equipped with hypochlorinators. People can then access the treated water at metered kiosks. Each family contributes a small weekly sum to help maintain the system.

Wildine Penoze, 34, has benefited from the new drinking water supply in Cyvadier, in the southeast of Haiti. Ms. Penoze says this pilot project has immensely helped her family and community. She used to walk at least 10 minutes to reach water, which was often not potable. Today, she walks a minute to the nearest kiosk to access good-quality drinking water. In addition she says that the project has also improved safety for children in the area, who were at risk of getting hit by cars on their long treks to fetch water.

Providing access to safe drinking water has reduced waterborne diseases and water conflicts. Coupled with other watershed management strategies, this will also prevent further damage to local ecosystems, and help build resilience to climate change impacts.