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Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott, says he expects to table the proposed Disaster Risk Management Bill in Parliament during the current fiscal.

Passage of the Bill is expected to boost the resources of the National Disaster Fund (NDF), which currently stands at just over $260 million.

The move to boost the Fund, the Minister explains, comes against the background of assessments, which show that a minimum of $650 million is required to implement and provide adequate measures and supplies for at least 32,000 persons displaced by natural disasters, as was the case with Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Making his contribution in the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate in the House on June 11, Mr. Arscott pointed out that, given the impact which tropical storms and hurricanes have had on Jamaica over the past 12 years, “it is apparent that the Fund is not adequate to meet the purpose it was intended,” which is to facilitate post disaster rapid response.

“The latest draft of the Disaster Risk Management Bill was received by the Ministry on April 11, 2013, and we expect the Bill to be tabled in the House before the end of this financial year,” he stated.

He advised that the Bill, which seeks to strengthen the country’s overall national disaster preparedness and emergency management and response processes and mechanisms, aims to facilitate this through a range of other measures.

These include: according recognition to existing organizational structures, such as the National Disaster Committee, Parish Disaster Committees, and Zonal Committees, with their roles and functions clearly established; provisions to legally evacuate persons identified as being at risk, based on their location, as a preventive measure; and identifying and earmarking high risk areas as “specially vulnerable areas”, and outlining the necessary steps to be taken in respect of such areas.

Meanwhile, Mr. Arscott said the Ministry, through the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), will seek to continue activities aimed at strengthening communities’ resilience to the effects of natural disasters.

Citing the challenges encountered by residents of Port Maria, St. Mary, which was impacted by severe weather, which caused flooding in November 2012, the Minister asserted that “we do not wish to experience a repeat of those activities.”

“As a result, we will be putting in two flood warning systems, one in Annotto Bay and another along the Milk River. We will (also) seek to ensure that all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies and key sectors of our economy develop significant levels of disaster risk management integrated into their policies and programmes,” Mr. Arscott said.

Contact: Douglas McIntosh