The Caribbean Disaster Risk Atlas, a tool to enhance decision-making to reduce the serious economic and social impacts of natural hazards in the region, was launched Monday June 25th at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona.
Funded by the World Bank at a cost of US$510,000 through its Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the Atlas is expected to strengthen the capacity of Caribbean Countries to develop strategic risk management strategies.
Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, said the preparation of the Atlas is a major achievement in the planning and development process as well as in natural hazard management and risk reduction.
“I request that you move post haste to ensure the dissemination of the information contained in the Atlas to all the policy and decision makers in the private and public sectors, and indeed to all members of the public,” he stated in a message read by Chairman of the Climate Change Advisory Committee, Dr. Conrad Douglas.
The Minister further lauded the initiative, saying that it will provide numerous social and environmental benefits for the country.
“If we use science-based knowledge to determine the high risk areas, vulnerable communities, and rebuild the natural ecosystems surrounding them, then what we have done, in essence, is to use science to redirect the re-creation of a healthy ecosystem, which, when you think about it, is the only insurance coverage for poor communities,” Mr. Pickersgill said.
The Minister further argued that if science-based information can be used to determine that a particular coastal area is exposed and vulnerable to storms and hurricanes, efforts can be made to protect those areas, which will better reduce the risks against storm surges and coastal erosion.
“Using science to determine high risk areas from deforestation and landslides can allow us to aim to protect and replant forests. Using community-based forest rehabilitation can improve both slope stability and the condition of watersheds, increasing community resilience to landslides and extended dry periods,” Mr. Pickersgill said.
He added that replanting of forests in mined-out bauxite areas can assist in improving soil and water retention, creating a carbon sink, and reintroducing biodiversity of flora and fauna, which can enhance food security.
In his remarks, Chief Executive Officer, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Peter Knight, said the Caribbean Disaster Risk Atlas provides a catalyst for the holistic approach to the management of orderly development and building disaster resilient communities in Jamaica.
He further stated that the Atlas will provide an excellent tool in identifying, showcasing and disseminating important information needed to make timely and sound technical decisions to enhance the development approval process.
“It will also help us to retool the agency’s arsenal with appropriate tools and techniques that will improve the disaster risk management for the built environment in Jamaica, build internal capacity to improve resilience of towns and communities located in high risk areas to natural hazards, and assist in the development of multi-hazard risk assessment and management plans,” Mr. Knight said.
For his part, Country Representative, World Bank, Jamaica, Giorgio Valentini noted that it is hoped that the Atlas will provide a better understanding of disaster risk in the region.
The Atlas was developed under the management of the Institute for Sustainable Development and the technical direction of the Seismic Research Unit in St. Augustine, Trinidad as well as the Mona GeoInformatics Institute.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter