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Haiti - Reconstruction : (II) Debris removal and management - Strategic Plan
05/01/2011 08:23:10

Haiti - Reconstruction : (II) Debris removal and management - Strategic Plan
12 months after the earthquake, funding has started to come, if slowly. The domestic and international communities are starting to work together more effectively. The IHRC is taking an active role in this cooperation, as evidenced by the projects approved by the IHRC (valued at $3 billion) for which international organizations have partnered with Haitian ministries.

While donors begin to fulfill their pledges and have difficulty accessing the facts about what is needed most on the ground, many are asking how to prioritize their spending.

The strategic plan presented at the fourth meeting of the IHRC, December 14, 2010 at Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, will help guide the project implementers, donors and investors as they guide the disbursement of their pledges for the reconstruction and development of Haiti, and add much needed new funding. Developed jointly by the Commission, international experts and ministry leaders, this plan outlines many of the most important things needed in Haiti by October 2011, the end of IHRC’s mandate.

Each day of the week we'll discover a part of this strategic plan for 2011. Today we cover the debris removal and management.

Debris removal is key to most development and recovery priorities. Very little debris has been removed – few neighborhoods are mostly clear of debris – and there are few organizations that are removing debris on a large scale. Furthermore, existing work is being carried out without the guidance of an overall framework.

Debris removal has been slow to start in part because key policy decisions have not been made – for instance not all buildings categorized as being beyond repair can yet be demolished. Further, there is no reliable tracking mechanism in place to adequately monitor progress and there is not yet a full assessment of how much debris exists, making planning difficult.

A challenge of this complexity and magnitude demands an overall strategy. The strategy should recognize multiple debris removal methods based on their effectiveness given the particularities and constraints of each geographical area rather than a blanket strategy for the whole country.

It is also vital that a global strategy address how debris will be disposed and possibly recycled. The current uncontrolled dumping that is the norm for many sites may cause future issues. The environmental impact of rubble disposal has been studied and the rubble is an inert material that poses little significant risk, with source separation of municipal & other waste streams. The plan also needs to address disposal site management, including best practices for site operation, enforcement mechanisms and creating income generation opportunities through debris recycling where possible & practical.

To date, there have been several estimates of the amount of debris generated by the earthquake. For the purpose of this document, it is assumed that there is a volume of 10 million cubic meters of remaining debris to be removed.

The IHRC has created an approach targeted to remove 40% of debris by the end of its mandate. Now is the time for immediate action. The international community must come together to execute the plan.

Debris removal efforts under way
There are many fragmented debris removal efforts underway. Supplementing the continuous effort of the Government of Haiti (GOH) on debris removal, various NGOs, bi-lateral and multilateral actors have implemented debris removal projects on specific streets and /or facilities. A proper strategic implementation led by the Government of Haiti requiring all organizations removing debris to provide periodic reports on progress made is needed to create a global view of all on-going efforts.

Separating the rubble from waste is currently conducted, for the most part when it occurs, on the collapsed or demolished structure site by hand. The rubble is commonly reused in a number of ways:

  • Fill areas where there are issues with the condition of the land
  • Increase land mass near the sea front
  • Rehabilitate dirt roads
  • Fill holes in land when preparing terrain for shelter installation by crushing and laying out the rubble
  • Construct gabion houses.

This use of the rubble may be utilizing an unskilled Haitian work force and can be a source of income to otherwise unemployed citizens, in addition to minimizing final disposal of reusable material. An advantage of this recycling alternative is that it relieves the demand on construction material that will be necessary to repair and reconstruct the large number of affected structures. The process, however, can be time consuming and the rubble has to be stored relatively close to the site where it will be used. It is also worth noting that sustainable practices and cultural acceptance are of concern.

Several studies have been done and are continuing regarding the use of processed rubble as aggregate in concrete mix, for low strength concrete. Most studies so far are recommending further studies before committing to the adequacy of such use.

Debris removal strategies
There are several approaches each with their respective set of advantages and disadvantages:

  • The Neighborhood Approach (adopted by the UN, NGOs, American Red Cross), entails working on debris removal in certain neighborhoods with the goal of diminishing the various camps’ population. This approach requires close coordination with government entities that oversee the area for efficient operation and to address land ownership and dispute when occurring.

  • The Sector Grid Approach addresses debris removal by zones, using a one-kilometer grid and a sub-sector 100 meter grid. This division does not take into account existing jurisdiction boundaries, but have the advantage to cover the entire area affected.

  • Systematic (US Army Corps of Engineer) Neighborhood Approach sectors the impacted areas primarily by using the 10 Departments limits, further subdivided into smaller sectors considering existing political, social, and economic subdivisions. This approach, according to the US Army, should facilitate assignment of debris management responsibility. That approach, similar from the neighborhood approach, differs from it in the fact that entire affected area is considered, divided, and prioritized prior to debris removal projects implementation.

The time and cost to implement these strategies is different:

  • Neighborhood Approach: with an estimated ten such contracts working simultaneously, and considering a total of 10 Million cubic meters remaining of debris in the Port-au-Prince Metropolitan area, it can be anticipated that it will take at best approximately 4 years to complete the effort, assuming a 7 day work week. Further, using an average debris removal cost of $35 per cubic meter, this effort can be implemented at a total cost of approximately $350 million.

  • Sector Grid Approach: if the debris removal effort was mainly implemented using contracts similar to those using in downtown Port au Prince under contract for the Government of Haiti, such contract shall require 18 months to complete an effort, in large scale open areas such as the downtown government corridor also assuming a 7 day work week. At a cost of $40 per cubic meter, the effort can be implemented at a total cost of $400 Million. This does not address the neighborhood specific programs, nor the density issues associated with same

  • Systematic Neighborhood Approach: as recommended, making use of existing efforts (Neighborhood) supplemented by the GOH’s own efforts, making use of in-house forces and out-sourcing contracts may be the best solution to maximize a variety of benefits. That may not be the most economical or the faster approach, but the benefits in term of socio-economic and environmental considerations are essential to a better future for the country. An estimated $ 400 million will be required over 24 to 30 months.

The IHRC recommends a Systematic Neighborhood Approach: it would combine both the neighborhood and the US Army approaches to ensure that entire earthquake affected areas are addressed without overlooking certain neighborhoods. In order to achieve this, the GOH will need to work closely and track the various organizations’ work on debris removal and develop a plan to compensate areas not currently addressed and/or incite additional interest from others capable of implementing debris removal projects. This plan will have the advantage of working within areas under the jurisdiction of local authorities, for more effective coordination between all parties. In addition, a number of efforts already in progress can continue while additional resources are sought to complement them. This approach may also have significant costs savings potential with multiple disposal sites and strategic implementation.

By October 2011, 40% of all debris, representing 4 million cubic meters will be removed

Despite its higher cost, the systemic neighborhood approach is preferred over other approaches as it ensures debris removal in a relatively time efficient manner. This is essential for the recovery of Haiti for three primary reasons. First, the safety & health of the people in Haiti. Secondly, the removal of debris is a clear prerequisite for other development priorities such as housing, hospital and school construction. Thirdly, the removal of debris will serve as a very visible manifestation of development improvements.

Required programs
To reach this target will require a debris removal operation characterized as follows

  • 24 separate & independent removal operations, each working a 6 day work week
  • Minimum of 12 disposal sites, with a minimum capacity of 333,000 cubic meters each

These operations shall be distributed into various projects / contracts, but it is essential that they be supported by a central coordinating unit, ideally under the MTPTC and monitored to international standards for transparency

Funding requirement
Using the systemic neighborhood approach, an average cost of $40 per cubic meter is estimated. To remove 4 million cubic meters by October 2011 (40% of 10 million cubic meters total debris), would therefore cost $160 million. The remaining 60% of debris would have a cost of $240 million, making for a total cost of $400 million, with significant cost saving potential through strategic goals and management thereof

Policy decisions and institutional enablers
Three things are particularly important to enable the execution of this debris removal program:

  • Government of Haiti to approve a minimum of 12 disposal sites, based on already developed suggestions and additional new developments

  • Government of Haiti to develop and make public a policy for demolishing red buildings, when the following conditions exist: A) Building conditions present a danger to the community in general, based on proximity to public area or B) The building has entirely collapsed or C) The building has not collapsed but damage is so severe that it is beyond repair

  • Government of Haiti to create a team to support the coordinating efforts of the MTPTC, with specific tracking mechanisms, onsite consistent daily inspection and monitoring personnel, with daily reporting & confirmation.

The IHRC is ready and able to support the Government in developing these solutions.

Interdependencies with other sectors
The removal of debris is a key requirement for ensuring progress in other development areas requiring construction. The selection of sites for debris removal must therefore be seen in connection with other development plans. This coordination can be enabled using detailed mapping, allowing for the assignment of priority sectors for debris removal.

See also:

HL/ S/ HaitiLibre /CIRH

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