Participatory engineering for recovery in post-earthquake Haiti

TitleParticipatory engineering for recovery in post-earthquake Haiti
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsSheller, M, Montalto, F, Galada, H, Gurian, PL, Piasecki, M, O'Connor, S, Ayalew, TB
JournalEngineering Studies
Date Published2014/09/02
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number1937-8629
AbstractParticipatory engineering has been called for after major catastrophes, yet is often bypassed due to countervailing implementation of ?quick fixes?. While immediate expert-driven solutions may be attractive, in the long-term they may be ineffective and inconsistent with the goals and capacities of local stakeholders. This article discusses the findings of National Science Foundation research by a team of three engineers and one social scientist who visited Haiti twice, four and seven months after the January 2010 earthquake, to investigate community participation in water and sanitation engineering processes in Léogâne. Methods included interviews with local inhabitants, water-sector actors, and government agencies; inspections of the engineering of the existing water and sanitation system; surveys of the affected population; and a participatory workshop to which numerous community-based organizations were invited. The research tests the potential for engineers to develop stakeholder-based participatory processes in a post-disaster context, which is hypothesized to produce better outcomes than traditional top-down authoritative planning processes. Focusing on the sanitation sector within a multi-stakeholder arena, the article analyzes the potential for various kinds of interactions amongst actors during unfolding decision-making processes at multiple scales, and assesses how each might contribute to better post-disaster engineering and ultimately more sustainable water and sanitation systems.