JIS News

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has emphasized that there is need for the development of “a policy that has teeth, that will allow for forced removal of persons from selected areas where disasters are threatening”.
Speaking on the passage of Hurricane Dennis in the House of Representatives on July 12, Mr. Patterson said these measures were taken in other places, such as Florida in the United States, and Cuba.
“From time to time, you hear people say they are not moving and when the disaster has passed and they are still alive, it confirms them in the belief that they will forever be spared, but there are some places that are so prone to flooding, if a natural disaster were to affect those particular areas, there must be the power to compel those citizens to remove until the danger is over. We have to bring that law to Parliament,” the Prime Minister told the House.
Turning to the matter of proper building practices, Mr. Patterson said the government was grateful for the valuable assistance it had been receiving from the Jamaican Institute of Engineers with the preparation of a National Building Code and legislation.
The Prime Minister said there were too many houses that were un-engineered structures. “Some are designed by people with very vivid imaginations but with little grounding in what is structurally sound. Putting into effect this law and code, together with special provisions for persons who build small homes, will go a far way to improve our building stock,” he remarked, imploring the KSAC, the Parish Councils and the Portmore Municipality to be more vigilant in enforcing their planning and building laws.
“It’s one thing giving building approval, but it is almost worthless if you don’t inspect the building while it is being constructed to see that it conforms with the approval that has been given. All of us have to get involved in doing our job and discharging our responsibility,” Mr. Patterson stressed.
The Prime Minister pointed out that disaster preparedness and management and the need for hazard mitigation policies and programmes were two distinct sets of activities, but were clearly inter-related.
Jamaica’s Hazard Mitigation Policy has been prepared with the assistance of the Caribbean Development Bank and CEDERA. It is presently being reviewed and will shortly be sent to the Cabinet and then to Parliament.”We have already taken action and made many decisions about better management of our physical resources and the environment. These strategic interventions are critical to our ability to reduce the losses that are inevitable from some of the disasters to which we are prone,” the Prime Minister said.
He noted that the National Integrated Watershed Management, established in 2000, had been working since then to co-ordinate activities in the watersheds. “This joined-up government approach, working closely with the private sector, non governmental organizations (NGOs) and community based organizations (CBOs), together with the donor and lender community, has resulted in several successful initiatives in watershed improvement and management,” he added. A detailed report will be presented on their work shortly.
This will include data on reforestation efforts by government and the private sector, and invaluable efforts and accomplishments of NGOs and community groups in the watersheds. An additional report on the recently concluded USAID/GOJ funded Ridge to Reef Programme identifying its many successes, will also be tabled.
The Mining and Quarrying Sector, the Prime Minister pointed out, had been under serious review over the past few years with amendments to laws and increases in fines and penalties for breaches of the laws.
Enforcement has been improved with a fuller involvement of the Island Special Constabulary Force. “In the light of problems with a number of rivers, I have ordered a review of all mining licences and the mining practices of all parties involved to ensure that these activities are not adding to our slate of disasters,” the Prime Minister said.
The Ministry of Transport and Works and the National Works Agency have been instructed to begin to put in place, with other relevant agencies, a Drainage Policy and Plan for the island. In addition, they are also required to begin to develop a programme for river training on a priority basis.
On the matter of maintaining drains, Mr. Patterson said, “the rain does not discriminate between what is a parish council drain from a main drain, from a private drain. We have to have a drainage policy that covers the entire island”.
In addition, he informed that a programme for river training on a priority basis would be developed. “We cannot undertake a river training programme for the entire island all at once, but we have to establish some priorities and we have to begin now,” he stressed.