Climate Change/Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative Effecting Change

Story Highlights

  • The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is expressing satisfaction with the outcomes of the recently concluded Government of Jamaica/European Union/United Nations Environment Programme (GOJ/EU/UNEP) Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project, which it co-managed in partnership with UNEP.
  • Vision 2030 Jamaica seeks to position the island to achieve developed country status within 16 years and, in the process, make it the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business.
  • A significant percentage of Jamaica’s economic activities is tied up in the use of its environmental resources. Hence, we want to ensure that the negative occurrences, which can have adverse impacts, are reduced...

The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is expressing satisfaction with the outcomes of the recently concluded Government of Jamaica/European Union/United Nations Environment Programme (GOJ/EU/UNEP) Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project, which it co-managed in partnership with UNEP.

The 38-month project, implemented between October 2010 and December 2013, was aimed at assisting in strengthening Jamaica’s ability to adapt to the effects of climate change, and reducing the likely risks associated with drought, flooding, soil erosion, land slippage, storm surges, and other natural occurrences.

This, the PIOJ believes, it was able to achieve through activities undertaken islandwide in collaboration with several government departments and agencies over the period.

These activities include key interventions such as: watershed rehabilitation; coastal ecosystems restoration; alternative income generation activities; and a public education programme for beneficiary stakeholders.

Implementation of the project was consistent with the fourth goal of the country’s National Development Plan, Vision 2030 Jamaica, which seeks to ensure that – ‘Jamaica has a healthy, natural environment’.

It also reflected the national strategic outcomes under this goal. These include: sustainable management and use of environmental and natural resources; hazard risk reduction and adaptation to climate change; and sustainable urban rural development.

Vision 2030 Jamaica seeks to position the island to achieve developed country status within 16 years and, in the process, make it the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business.

The project was also consistent with the government’s strategic priority focus on environmental and climate change resilience.

It was undertaken at a cost of €4.48 million, of which the European Union (EU) provided €4.13 million, through grant funding. The Government provided €277,000, and UNEP, the remaining €75,000.

PIOJ Deputy Director General in charge of Sustainable Development and Social Planning, Claire Bernard, tells JIS News that under the watershed rehabilitation component, the Forestry Department, undertook the replanting of 405 hectares of trees (reforestation) on lands in a number of the island’s 26 watersheds.

The trees in these areas were lost/destroyed over time due to weather-related activities such as storms and hurricanes, as well as human activity resulting in trees being cut down to create areas for agricultural engagement, as also charcoal burning.

The targeted watersheds are located around the Yallahs River in St. Thomas; Hope River, St. Andrew; and Buff Bay and Pencar Rivers, spanning St. Mary and Portland as well as the Rio Bueno watershed area in Trelawny.

Coupled with the reforestation effort, Ms. Bernard informs, is the establishment of permanent sample plots, which comprise discrete forested areas that have been set aside as areas from which baseline data is gathered. These areas can also be monitored on a consistent basis within the targeted watersheds.

Sample plots, she explains, will be used to measure and monitor general development of forest cover where they are located, especially in light of climate change, to track the impact of this phenomenon on forest resources. These, she adds, should serve to guide any necessary interventions required to ensure the forests’ sustainability.

Another key activity, the Deputy Director General informs, was an assessment of over 110,000 hectares of forest lands. This represents approximately one-third of Jamaica’s forest cover, which is under management by the Forestry Department.

“That exercise was really important because it provides the Forestry Department with critical information such as: location and acreage of plantable lands; distribution of mature stands of commercial plantations; extent of squatting (agricultural and structural), conditions of the estate boundaries; as well as recreational potential of the estates,” she said.

Another key activity was the declaration of 3,700 hectares of new forest reserves and management areas. This involves the listing and documenting of descriptions of lands to be declared as Crown Lands or Management Areas under Ministerial approval.

“The significance of this is that persons cannot and must not, in any way, encroach on the forests, once those targeted areas have been accorded reserve designation, as they would be protected by legislation, namely the Forestry Act of 1996,” she explains.

In addition to the reforestation exercise, remedial work was also carried out along the Cane River in Dallas Castle, St. Andrew, to stem erosion along a section of that waterway, which was undermining the adjacent community main road. This exercise was funded at a cost of approximately J$10 million by the EU and implemented with the assistance of the National Works Agency (NWA). The works were concluded in November 2013.

“That section of Dallas Castle was being severely eroded and intervention was needed to stabilise the land in that area. So a retaining wall was constructed and river training works carried out. This should make a significant difference for the residents,” the Deputy Director General states.

Ms. Bernard tells JIS News that the coastal ecosystems restoration component, undertaken in partnership with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), focused on replanting mangrove forests and sea grass beds, as well as installing artificial reefs in a number of areas, where these were destroyed by weather-related or human activity. She explains that all three serve as shoreline buffers, which protect the island’s coastline against the impact of intense storm surges.

She points out that damage sustained “meant that our coastal infrastructures as well as persons living along the coastlines were severely impacted because the areas were exposed to the sea.”

In this regard, Ms. Bernard informs that approximately 1,500 square metres of sea grass were replanted in Negril. This was planted in blowouts, props and scars with the aim of restoring approximately eight hectares or 20 acres. In addition, approximately seven hectares of mangroves were replanted along the coast of Portland Cottage, Clarendon, and Hellshire, St. Catherine.

“Importantly, the project also saw the establishment of a coastal plants nursery at the (University of the West Indies’ [UWI]) Discovery Bay Marine Lab (in St. Ann) as well as the building of capacity at the Port Royal Marine Lab, Port Royal, Kingston. So not only did we replant mangroves, but we are ensuring that we will have seedlings that can be transplanted where there are denuded areas, as is necessary,” she advises.

The artificial reef systems entailed installation of 150 Wave Attenuation Devices (WADs) and 19 Modular Turbulence Generators (MTG) which also serve as shoreline/coastline barriers against intense wave action.

These barriers mirror the action of coral reefs and slow down wave action on the shoreline, thus reducing beach erosion. Much of this undertaking was carried out along the coasts of Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine, and Bloody Bay, Negril, both of which are key fishing and tourist resort areas.

Ms. Bernard points out that beach erosion is occurring in several areas, resulting in significant loss of Jamaica’s shoreline. Consequently she says additional measures, such as the application of Shorelock Technology, was pilot tested to address this under the project.

She informs that Shorelock Technology entails utilisation of a special organic compound to bind the sand particles, thus slowing coastline erosion and helping in restoring beach profile. She points out that the exercise was carried out at Font Hill, St. Elizabeth, as well as Negril and Discovery Bay.

“The Shorelock methodology was previously shown to work well, particularly, when used at a few private properties in our resort areas. Hence, under the project, we sought to do the scientific test in three different coastal ecosystems. This study was carried out with the assistance of consulting firm, Hydros Coastal Solution out of the United States. The UWI was brought on board to monitor and analyse the results which will help in determining whether it can be considered for roll out on a larger scale,” she indicates.

Other inputs under the coastal ecosystem restoration component include: installation of 30 data loggers across five Marine Protected Areas, (Negril, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Portland Bight, and Port Royal/Palisadoes), to monitor sea temperature, as well as tidal gauges to facilitate data collation, analysis, and documentation.

The latter undertaking, she explains, aims to create a database “which can help us with our projections in terms of changes in sea surface temperature which is an indicator of potential coral bleaching and sea level rise. This information becomes invaluable in planning for the future”.

The capacity building component focused on creating alternative livelihoods for residents in targeted areas, to replace engagements such as charcoal burning and inappropriate and unsustainable farming and fishing practices.

“We sought to introduce livelihoods activities which would help the residents use the environment in a more responsible manner and not use it merely to eke out an income and, as such, compromise it,” Ms. Bernard explains.

In this regard, she advises that 14 such activities have been established targeting over 700 beneficiaries islandwide. These include: establishment of a sea moss farm; eco-tourism and organic farming, as well as beekeeping enterprises.

Areas where these were undertaken are: Dallas Castle and Constitution Hill, St. Andrew, St. Thomas; Negril; Montego Bay; and the Portland Bight area of Clarendon. These are expected to have a significantly positive all-round effect.

“If you use the multiplier for a family of (for example) five, you will see to what extent that would go in terms of the number of beneficiaries. And if you take into consideration shopkeepers, transportation stakeholders, among others, in the community, the number of indirect beneficiaries would increase significantly,” she adds.

Ms. Bernard says the project also targeted other activities and stakeholders to involve legislators at the national and community level.

“So, for example, Ministries, Departments, and Agencies as well as Parish Councillors, were made aware of how they could  incorporate climate change in planning their activities,” she outlines.

A Climate Change Policy Framework has also been developed, which will provide the legislative framework for climate change consideration in Jamaica. This was developed through the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change and is now at the Green Paper stage. Islandwide consultations have also been held.

The Deputy Director General says, based on the results of a series of Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice (KAP) surveys, conducted by the PIOJ on the communications campaign carried out under the project, the Institute is satisfied that the project has achieved its goal.

“The results have shown that the project has had positive impact in increasing the level of awareness of climate change in the communities in which it was implemented. An all island survey done in 2012 also showed that the level of basic awareness is over 80 per cent…so there is a relatively high level of awareness about climate change,” she informs.

Initial stakeholder feedback Ms. Bernard adds, suggests that the project has had a measure of success and as such “we are pleased about that.”

She further states that: “what we want to change are the attitudes and practices, deemed inappropriate, which are carried out, particularly at the community level.”

To this end, Ms. Bernard advises that the project has disseminated educational material to several schools and to some of Jamaica’s citizens deemed most vulnerable. These include: the hearing and visually challenged, in St. Catherine and Kingston and

St. Andrew, in the first instance. She says it is anticipated that this will further heighten public awareness and elicit additional feedback over the medium to long term.

Ms. Bernard contends that the implementation of the project has laid a solid foundation which can be expanded on, to Jamaica’s medium and long term benefit.

“A significant percentage of Jamaica’s economic activities is tied up in the use of its environmental resources. Hence, we want to ensure that the negative occurrences, which can have adverse impacts, are reduced,” she adds.

Ms. Bernard expresses gratitude to all stakeholders partnering with the PIOJ in implementing the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project.

These include: the Environment Management and Meteorological Services Divisions of the Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Ministry; Forestry Department; National Environment and Planning Agency and associate stakeholders such as: Negril Environment Protection Trust (NEPT); St. Thomas Environment Protection Association (STTEPA); and Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (CCAM); Montego Bay Marine Park Trust; University of the West Indies; and co-managers – United Nation Environment Programme and main donor – the European Union, “without whom this project would not have been possible.”

Ms. Bernard informs that several priority areas have been identified for pursuit under the EU’s 11th Economic Development Framework (EDF) Programme, 2014-2020, which includes the environment.

“We are certainly working with our partners to see how best we can tap into that programme, which will help to consolidate the gains made on this (climate change) Project. The 11th EDF is currently being developed,” she advises.

JIS Social