Data Being Collected Through RiVAMP to Mitigate Effects of Climate Change

Photo: Mark Bell Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project Manager, Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Mrs. Mary-Ann Gooden, telling JIS News about the RiVAMP project in Negril.

Story Highlights

  • RiVAMP is an evidence-based assessment initiative that assesses the extent to which climate change affects or can affect the ecosystem.
  • The project’s implementation is consistent with the government’s job creation and economic growth priority.
  • The specific focus areas targeted for in-depth assessments were Long Bay Beach, and Bloody Bay Beach.

Accurate collation of data on the impact of climate change on Jamaica’s environment is essential to efforts to mitigate the damaging effects of this phenomenon.

Against this background, State agencies, such as the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), have been leading the thrust in this direction, with the implementation of the Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology Project (RiVAMP).

RiVAMP is an evidence-based assessment initiative that utilizes scientific and local knowledge inputs to assess the extent to which climate change affects or can affect the ecosystem; the degree of environmental changes resulting from human activities; and the level of attendant environmental governance, in this regard.

The programme forms part of the Government of Jamaica (GoJ)/United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-funded Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project, being managed by the PIOJ.

The project’s main sponsor, the European Union (EU), provided some €4.13 million to fund a comprehensive programme targeting watershed rehabilitation, coastal resilience enhancement, and building and strengthening climate change capacity, and heightening awareness.

RiVAMP, which commenced in 2009, is being undertaken as a pilot in two phases in Negril, Westmoreland. The anticipated results are expected to guide implementation of solutions for that region and possible interventions in other parts of Jamaica, as identified and deemed necessary, to effectively address environmental impacts influenced by climate change, with a view to mitigating possible outcomes.

The project’s implementation is consistent with the government’s job creation and economic growth priority, focusing on facilitating protection of the natural environment.

It is also in line with the Vision 2030 Jamaica – National Development Plan goal, which anticipates the country having a healthy natural environment with the targeted outcomes incorporating sustainable management and use of environmental resources; hazard risk reduction and adaptation to climate change; and sustainable urban and rural development.

Climate Change Adaptation Project Manager, Mary-Ann Gooden, tells JIS News that phase one of RiVAMP, which was jointly funded by the GoJ and UNEP, lasted between 2009 and 2010. It entailed a study of the Negril shoreline to determine the extent of changes occurring there, upwards of the last 40 years.

The specific focus areas targeted for in-depth assessments, she points out, were Long Bay Beach, and Bloody Bay Beach, noting that the findings were “stark”.

“It (findings) showed that the Negril area was experiencing severe and irreversible shoreline erosion and retreat. The rate of beach and coastline loss was between 0.5 metre and one metre per annum…and that is significant,” she says.

Attributable factors, Mrs. Gooden informs, included: extensive damage to, and destruction of the mangrove colony, which served as a shoreline defence buffer against intense sea surges resulting from severe weather, such as hurricanes and storms; and damage to, and destruction of supporting marine plants and structures, such as sea grass and coral reefs.

She attributes the destruction and damage of the mangroves to, among other things, significant infrastructural developments taking place in Negril over the years, inclusive of road and building construction.

The Project Manager says the resulting exposure of the fragile sea grass and coral reefs, which served as the first line of defence in shoreline protection, to intense wave action (caused by more intense hurricanes, as well as pollutants associated with poor farming practices by residents in adjacent areas), has caused extensive damage to, or destruction of these marine features.

Mrs. Gooden also points out that in addition to shoreline erosion, fisher-folk were reportedly forced to go in search of ample supplies of fish further out at sea, as schools of fish were forced to find new habitats in light of the absence of the sea grass and coral reefs, which they usually frequented. She says based on reports surfacing, this has proven challenging for the fisher-folk.

Mrs. Gooden informs that several recommendations for corrective action were proposed, arising from the study. Some of these have either already been undertaken or are at various stages of implementation under the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project.

These include: re-planting of some 1000 square metres of sea grass, which she says “should help to start the process of rebuilding the sea grass that was lost” and construction of an artificial reef system, being piloted in the Bloody Bay area, using a process called the modular turbulence generator (MTG).

The MTG entails the manufacture of structure similar to a reef system, using a dome-shaped steel frame. It is a porous structure which allows waves to pass through, while tempering the pace and intensity with which these flow to the shoreline.

The process facilitates the accumulation of sand in front of the structure and contains it, enabling incremental beach development. It also allows for coral growth on the various components of the structure, thus duplicating an actual coral reef.

The latter undertaking, Mrs. Gooden says, was completed in October, the results of which are being monitored by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), to determine its success as an adaptation measure.

She further states that if the studies and analyses show positive results for beach accretion, consideration will be given to replicating it along shorelines elsewhere across the island where its need is identified and the funds are available.

“It is also anticipated that a healthy coral reef will attract more fish closer inshore…and the livelihood the fisher folks will be (boosted),” she adds.

Mrs. Gooden says shoreline erosion is being addressed using Shore-lock Technology. She explains that the process entails placement of an organic compound into the sand to bind the particles together.

“So, we are piloting this technology in 250 metres on the Long Bay Beach. This should, hopefully, reduce the loss of sand on the beach. It is being monitored by NEPA and the University of the West Indies (UWI),” the Project Manager notes. She adds that after the final application, monitoring will continue and be assessed for replication, should the outcome of the test be positive.

As regards RiVAMP II, Mrs. Gooden informs that activities under this phase , which commenced in 2011, includes utilization of geographic information system (GIS) technology,  to review changes occurring in the Orange River watershed area over a 40-year period.

“So, a decision was made to assess the adjacent Orange River watershed area that supports the coastline and examine how human activities upstream, in the watershed, impact the ecosystem, and determine if any links are there to climate change. Also, to provide baseline data on the study area, in terms of social and economic changes,” she indicates, adding that this exercise is being done by a consultant.

Mrs. Gooden advises that this stage of RiVAMP II will form the basis for wider risk and vulnerability assessments of the area and stresses the importance of data collation in that process. “You cannot do the assessment without data,” she emphasises.

In this regard, she says a decision was taken to provide the support needed to get this type of data, through RiVAMP II. This was done through the acquisition of an automatic weather station and rain gauge, at a cost of approximately $1.4 million.

Both were commissioned into service earlier this year by State Minister for Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Ian Hayles; and Head of the EU Delegation in Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei. These equipment are based at the Royal Palm Reserve in Negril, Westmoreland, and Cave Valley Health Centre in Hanover.

Mrs. Gooden explains that the weather station and rain gauge will, primarily, serve to record data on weather activities and patterns around the watershed area.

“They are automatic and fully computerized. So, the data can be recorded and downloaded hourly each day without the need for manual input. And, being able to do that, we can then start building a baseline profile for the area,” she adds.

Key stakeholders, the National Meteorological Service, and Water Resources Authority (WRA), which will monitor the facilities, have welcomed the acquisitions, she says.

Mrs. Gooden informs that RiVAMP II will also entail assessment of the changes occurring on the landscape over the period, particularly in relation to tourism and the rate of urbanization, between 1968 and 2009.

“So, change detection analysis will be carried out to see how the natural ecosystem has been impacted by settlement and agricultural practices over that 40-year span,” she outlines.

She points out that the reports generated from the findings will provide a comprehensive document outlining the state of the watershed area.  This document, she adds, will serve to guide local and national decision-makers on factors affecting the area and indicate the types of support needed to address them.

Mrs. Gooden tells JIS News that the data generated can also assist farmers in determining trends over time and the appropriate periods for cultivating.

Additionally, she informs that under the general Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project, several activities were undertaken, which included income-generating livelihood initiatives. She cites an activity in the Negril area, where a local non-governmental organization (NGO) has embarked on the establishment of a sea moss farm and a royal palm nursery.

“It will create employment for about 10 fisher-folk in the Little Bay area and approximately 20 part time positions at the nursery. These engagements will see them using some of the unique raw material in the area to form alternative livelihoods, to replace some of those they were previously engaged in, which may have been deemed deleterious on the environment, such as burning charcoal,” she explains.

Mrs. Gooden says it is anticipated that when RiVAMP II ends, sufficient data would have been gathered to finalize a full risk and vulnerability assessment of the Orange River watershed area.

“What we hope is that after studying what has happened in this particular watershed, we will be able to continue the process in other areas in Jamaica, learning from the Orange River watershed experience and seeing how we can scale it up, in which case these same risk and vulnerability assessment principles can be easily applied,” she tells JIS News.

 

 

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