Report – Port au Prince, Haiti

In this assessment of natural disasters and hazards faced by the people of Port au Prince Haiti it is evident that there are complex interactions that affect the way that risks are assessed and mitigated. Based on our class discussions about earth systems the atmosphere, this biosphere will be discussed within a specific context. A systematic perspective of natural hazards in this locality will demonstrate the way that natural disasters happen. By assessing the specific geographic region it is possible to understand how the hazards form as well as the particular areas related to the weather conditions they face. Multiple factors that contribute to these hazards will be described.

Port-au-Prince is a city representative of a very poor country. There is information about a fault line under the city, however this could not be linked to the earthquake occurring in early 2010. Another aspect that contributes to the poor conditions experienced here is that Port-au-Prince suffers from dichotomized wealth distribution. Since land ownership regulations are not applicable within slum areas, there is limited access to government. Informal residential areas without building codes or appropriate transportation yield diminished returns to those who live there. There are huge populations within the city limits that are subject to poor conditions with limited access to resources and overall detrimental conditions. These housing units are frequently in areas that are more vulnerable to natural hazards contrary to those living situations with basic access to electricity or other emergency services (Carmalt, 2004). It is further notable that these populations suffer the most in the event of natural disasters that affect the city. Since there is limited regulation or warning efforts for the seismic activity and other contributing factors to climate control in Haiti it is evident that unforeseen climate changes can contribute greatly to the disruption of society and basic economic function.

Climate change and urbanization make the city and general location more vulnerable to natural hazards. These processes are relevant to the rights and health analysis that citizens should take into account as their locality may gain greater vulnerability. The link between spatial inequality and equitable land promote sustainable development and a process that involves respect, protection and the ability to fulfill human rights within this type of region. It is evident that the urbanization process on a whole can create more vulnerability within specific environmental contexts (Carmalt, 2004). These issues are highlighted by the presence of climate change within the region such as earthquakes and cyclones that lead to flooding and other detrimental circumstances within the city.

Overall, rural to urban migration increases the vulnerability that people living in Port-au-Prince experience. Climate change demonstrates a context of climate adaption and processes for inequitable distribution. These phenomenon are characteristic of urbanization and urban planning that diminishes the specific land policies that promote healthy living environments and limited risk to natural hazard (Carmalt, 2004). These factors demonstrate the specific environmental conditions around natural disasters in Haiti. While many cities and establishments may be at risk of earthquakes or cyclones within the Caribbean, Port-au-Prince is specialized in its prevalence of vulnerable populations and diminished access to resources through urbanization.

Haiti overall has one of the highest exposure rates to multiple hazards in the world. The country lies within the Caribbean Basin and has the 5th highest mortality risk. 96% of the population is considered to live at risk of cyclones amongst the small islands. Hazardous conditions associated with this include flooding, damage, mudslides and coastal surges. This vulnerability is characteristic of severe degradation and settlement in low-lying areas or floodplains. Haiti is entirely located within a seismically active zone and encompasses the intersection of two fault lines. It can be seen from this map, that it is located near the coast and is influenced by a variety of conditions contingent to its island status.

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These characterize the risks and hazards experienced in Port-au-Prince (Champ.gatech.edu, 2015). The risk of cyclones will further be discussed in terms of the earth system dynamics that are created before these processes can manifest. It is evident that there are a variety of risks that threaten coastal cities in this island country. Since cyclones can diminish the overall productivity of Port-au-Prince and create significant damage to infrastructure it is important to assess the scope of the subsequent environmental conditions that are brought on by contingent hazards.

One common theme amongst natural disasters in Haiti and other countries is related to the way that scientists ask for relocation after a city is struck by natural disaster. Port-au-Prince is at seismic risk and as a major metropolis, jeopardizes three million inhabitants. This risk increases as stress is released in a region that is the hypocenter of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault. Such fault systems increase the stress and immediate danger towards people in Port-au-Prince. By moving populations of people to areas between the Enriquillo-Plantain garden fault it becomes possible for the region to be conducive to areas of low seismicity (Earthmagazine, 2015). Earthquakes can form when there is friction between particular tectonic elements. This is evident in the case of Port-au-Prince because of its particular risk and location over shifting plates.

Two significant hazards that affect Port-au-Prince are earthquakes and cyclones. These have prominent effects on the city because of the overall location within the Caribbean basin and the formation directly on top of a fault line. Both aspects of this situation create increased threats for natural disasters as well as related outcomes for change.

Haiti is situated within the mountainous portion of the island Hispaniola. Despite the natural disasters that constantly affect the region, political upheaval and increasing levels of poverty limit progress. Port-au-Prince was the capital of Haiti and represents a unique Diaspora because of the constant cycle of economic depravity hat is experienced (BBC, 2010).

Haiti experienced a 7.0 magnitude tremor. The devastating effects of this are compounded by the lack of infrastructure. The quake was shallow occurring just eight miles below ground. This unfortunately compounded the way that the energy was absorbed and diminished the impact of rehabilitation (Open Knowledge 2010). While the impact of natural hazards is not that severe, the greater problems in Haiti are relevant to the way that complexities are formed in relation to political and economic disadvantage. Since much of the community that has suffered from the geographic hardship of earthquakes and other natural hazards are subject to poverty and limited government assistance, much of the damage and calamity is associated with procurement of funds and resources to deal with problems.

Nongovernmental assistance in Haiti has assisted greatly with the outcomes of these earthquakes and natural disasters as they affect many people and their ability to have basic configurations for living conditions. While much of the delay in rebuilding has been due to the limitations of funds and other resources, it can be possible to prevent these conditions in the future by creating a new infrastructure within the fault lines instead of directly on them. This will prevent the unprecedented death of working class individuals throughout the country (TIME, 2015). The effects of these conditions have created lasting rubble and huge amounts of waste that the city and country are still attempting to deal with, as depicted in this photo.

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With the prevalence of cyclones there are a number of risks that these efforts would be able to assist with. Since this type of natural hazard is closely associated with other geographic and natural hazards, it is important to be able to predict the onset and characterization of each. For example, a cyclone would result in the underlying tendency for a mudslide, flood or related condition to manifest within the already unsteady foundation of Port-au-Prince. Warning systems and relocation efforts can help populations cope with these changing dynamics and situations while accounting for the complex and traditional systems of geological impact that such disasters imply.

In conclusion there are a variety of climate and regional differences that pose risk to Port-au-Prince. It is critical to understand the nature of these risks in order to create warning systems and mechanisms for saving life and injury. The biosphere conditions described in this report illustrate the impact that earthquakes and cyclones can have on a city and country. They are burgeoning and can surmount significant distress without the proper assistance or rebuilding efforts. There is evidence from the most recent earthquakes that promote and understanding that the particular location of this capital city is posed for future threats as long as it lays on the fault line. By moving the city it may be possible for enhancements to their overall safety and economic progress as future earthquakes may not affect the region to as a high an intensity as experienced in 2010. This type of decision would require significant infrastructure changes and development.

References     

Carmalt, J. (2014). Prioritizing Health: A Human Rights Analysis of Disaster, Vulnerability, and Urbanization in New Orleans and Port-au-Prince. Health and human rights16(1), E41.

Champ.gatech.edu,. (2015). Haiti | Caribbean Hazard Assessment Mitigation and Preparedness. Retrieved 16 March 2015, from http://www.champ.gatech.edu/node/1856

Earth Magazine. (2015). Voices: Should science dictate whether to rebuild after a natural disaster? | EARTH Magazine. Retrieved 16 March 2015, from http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/voices-should-science-dictate-whether-rebuild-after-natural-disaster

BBC. (2010). BBC News – Haiti’s history of misery. Retrieved 16 March 2015, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8456728.stm

Open Knowledge. (2010). Haiti earthquake: Natural disaster, or man-made?. Retrieved 16 March 2015, from http://knowledge.allianz.com/environment/natural_disasters/?566/haiti-eathquake-natural-disaster-or-man-made

TIME. (2015). The Haiti Earthquake – TIME. Retrieved 16 March 2015, from http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/0,28757,1953379,00.html

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