Initiatives to Help Haiti Recover
A new set of web pages describes the Earth Institute’s wide-ranging involvement in helping bring relief to quake-battered Haiti, as well as plans for long-term recovery, and associated environmental and economic issues.
One major program, the Haiti Regeneration Initiative involves the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Tropical Agriculture and the Rural Environment Program and the Columbia Water Center, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme. At the time of the quake, CIESIN staffers including deputy director Marc Levy were in Haiti studying how to restore a watershed southwest of Port-au-Prince that has suffered decades of severe deforestation, with consequent soil erosion, flooding and landslides. The goal is to restore agricultural and water resources, and at the same time reduce poverty and increase resilience to natural disasters. Since the quake, the program has been regrouping, and organizers hope to move forward in coming months. CIESIN has also been developing geospatial data to support other humanitarian efforts by the UN, U.S.. government and nonprofit organizations.
Researchers from Tropical Agriculture and Columbia’s School of International Public Affairs have been doing an agricultural needs and production assessment, to help guide donations of needed seed and fertilizer to boost food production in the coming growing season. Earth Institute Haiti policy advisor Tatiana Wah has been working within the country, and Glenn Denning, associate director of the Tropical Agriculture Program, n New York. Through these contacts, several major agricultural companies are arranging for donations of seed and fertilizers appropriate for Haitian agriculture that it is hoped will make their way to the country in time for planting.
Separately, a task force of seismologists and other scientists has been working with the UN and other institutions to assess the threat of further quakes, so that coming reconstruction efforts can take all risks into consideration. Art Lerner-Lam, head of seismology at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, has been coordinating and compiling ongoing research with a consortium of other universities, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the UN. Among other projects, scientists from Lamont and other institutions just completed a cruise in which they imaged previously unmapped portions of the main earthquake fault in the waters off Haiti, and gathered information on possible past big quakes. Scientists from the various institutions plan to convene March 20-23 in Miami to compare notes.