The more we explore the concrete supply system in Haiti the more we are surprised and saddened. A Newsweek article pointed to another way to die in Haiti; sand mining in the Artibonite River in Haiti.
It is not unusual to mine sand from river bottoms, it is done everyday in quarries around the US. River sand is good for making concrete, so dredging for washed river sand is common in the construction material industry.
What makes sand mining different in Haiti is that the sand miners don’t use tractors or huge diesel-powered shovels to pull up the sand from the river. These miners use hands and buckets as their scoops.
They don’t start their workday by putting on a hard hat like most miners. They slip on their swimming trunks or shorts and head to the river. They don’t get to sit all day in a tractor seat. Instead, they wade out into the Artibonite River and begin diving under the current for the sand that provides them a living. After diving, they surface with a handful and then move to the river’s edge or to a sand bar to unload their product. If they are lucky they use a bucket and get a higher production rate for the day.
Some seasons the river runs low and the mining can be done by wadding in, but other times of the year the rivers swell from mountain rains. Sadly the demand for sand and the need to feed a family causes miners to risk the possibility of drowning in swollen currents.
But the high water is only one of the dangers of Haitian sand mining. Today the Artibonite River runs through the mine carrying Vibrio Cholerae, the source of Cholera. Can you swim in your shorts in this water and stay away from Cholera for very long?
Even with the risks, the sand miners toll away to bring in the sand for the rebuilding efforts. After all, it is just another way to die in Haiti…