FEATURE-Haiti's road to reconstruction blocked by land tenure disputes

Sat Jan 26, 2013 8:00am EST
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* Land ownership disputes stall development projects

* Haiti faces international pressure to improve land registry

By Susana Ferreira

JEREMIE, Haiti, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The smooth black asphalt of National Road No. 7 stretches for about five miles beyond Camp Perrin, a town in fertile southwest Haiti.

It abruptly stops before reaching farmer Liphete Denis' front door, replaced by a rocky dirt path that floods in the rainy season and billows dust clouds when the weather turns dry. "I don't know why they stopped," said Denis, 43. "We'd like the road done. We need it."

The 56-mile road project was meant to connect the southern port city of Les Cayes with Jérémie, a city in one of Haiti's most neglected regions. It was to resurface a pot-holed road that passes between narrow mountain ranges and fords a flood-prone river, making transportation to Jérémie arduous and dangerous.

Instead, the unfinished road has become a symbol of how efforts to improve Haiti's infrastructure, especially after the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, have run up against the country's land laws.

A practically non-existent land registry, fraudulent land titles, unclear processes for land transfer, and a tangle of bureaucracy have halted the road project and similar major international investments.

Haiti's land laws have delayed completion of a Spanish-funded water treatment facility on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince and prevented the start of construction on a $26 million public hospital in the city of Gonaives.   Continued...