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Story Highlights

  • The Disaster Risk Management Bill seeks to strengthen the country’s overall national disaster preparedness.
  • The National Emergency Response and Disaster Management Protocols need to be strengthened.
  • The ‘No Building’ Zone Bill will empower the Government to prevent construction in disaster-risk areas.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott, says that drafting of the proposed Disaster Risk Management Bill is far advanced.

He informed that further drafting instructions were issued to the office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel in July.

The Minister made the disclosure on Tuesday, November 27, during the sitting of the House of Representatives. He was making his contribution to a motion brought by Member of Parliament for West Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, which calls for legislation for the mandatory evacuation of disaster-prone areas.

The Disaster Risk Management Bill seeks to strengthen the country’s overall national disaster preparedness, emergency management and response processes and mechanisms, through a range of measures.

These include: according recognition to existing organisational 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; identifying and earmarking high risk areas as “especially vulnerable areas”, and outlining the necessary steps to be taken in respect of such areas.

Mr. Arscott also informed that the National Emergency Response and Disaster Management Protocols need to be strengthened to include public education, behaviour modification and culture shift, enforcement, legislation and regulations.

“There are some things that we have to consider when forcibly removing persons from areas. It requires a balancing act between the rights of the individual and a government’s duty to safeguard citizens. It also raises the question about the availability of resources when persons are removed and are to be relocated; who will bear the cost?” Mr. Arscott said.

He also added that the ‘No Building’ Zone Bill is now at the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.

The building legislation will empower the Government to prevent construction in disaster-risk areas and will also include compulsory evacuation where there is imminent danger.

In closing the debate, Mr. McKenzie argued that a timeline should be set for the completion and implementation of the ‘No Building’ Zone Bill.

“While we continue and sit in a room to develop these policies, it is costing the country more on a daily basis to respond to natural disasters,” Mr. McKenzie said.

The motion was approved and sent to a committee of both Houses of Parliament for further deliberation.