I’m in Haiti to explore sanitation infrastructure in the largest city in the world without a sewage system. Right off the bat, it’s clear that Port-au-Prince is a vibrant, fun place to hang out. It’s also clear that the city has a huge trash and sewage problem.
The market downtown is hopping. But cars are stuck near a small mountain of water bottles, plastic bags, vegetable husks and styrofoam containers swimming in a brown pool. Canals that run through the city are choked with trash until the waste forms a dam under bridges and the water and waste back up to completely fill the canal.
So, on my first day in Port-au-Prince, I visited the public dump. At the dump, there are hints about Port-au-Prince’s sanitation challenges. Medical waste – used syringes, blood test tubes – is a reminder that there is no incinerator available for many hospitals and clinics.
This also is where a lot of liquid sewage was dumped until September 2011. Now, there is just a huge, empty muddy hole under a cliff of garbage.
It might be the most beautiful public dump in the world, less than a mile from the edge of the Caribbean. The sunset is flaming orange over the water, and it’s more lovely, somehow, through the smoke from countless fires that burn day and night in the trash heaps.