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Story Publication logo July 31, 2017

Haiti: The Most Beautiful Garbage Dump in the World

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After the 2010 earthquake, NGOs dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage at the end of the Port-au-Prince city landfill, which borders the sea and is not lined with an impermeable material. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.
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In 2011, one year after a catastrophic earthquake and subsequent cholera epidemic in Haiti, trucks...

The garbage dump at Truitter, outside Port-au-Prince, burns day and night. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, raw sewage was also dumped there until a new site was built. Image by Rebecca Hersher. Haiti, 2017.
The garbage dump at Truitter, outside Port-au-Prince, burns day and night. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, raw sewage was also dumped there until a new site was built. Image by Rebecca Hersher. Haiti, 2017.

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.

Medical waste, including these vials from blood tests, is dumped alongside other trash at the Truitter dump. The new general hospital building, now under construction, will include an incinerator for that waste. Image by Rebecca Hersher. Haiti, 2017.
Medical waste, including these vials from blood tests, is dumped alongside other trash at the Truitter dump. The new general hospital building, now under construction, will include an incinerator for that waste. Image by Rebecca Hersher. Haiti, 2017.

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.

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