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Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon.  Robert Pickersgill, has disclosed that the Government is implementing steps to improve strategies, to enable the island to withstand the impact of climate change more effectively.

Speaking at the opening of a one-day symposium at the Jamaica Conference Centre, today (November 8), to observe World Town Planning Day, the Minister said the recent passage of Hurricane Sandy had affected Jamaica significantly.

This, he said, demonstrated the vulnerability of coastal communities and underscored the need to execute planning strategies to withstand and minimise the effects of climate change.

The Minister said Government was cognizant of the urgent need for climate change resilience in communities, and has developed several planning strategies and initiatives, some of which have already been implemented.

“Earlier this year, I appointed aClimate Change Advisory Committee to provide strategic policy direction to the Ministry as we seek to address the issues that confront us in this area.  A Climate Change Departmentwill be established by the end of the year and its primary function will be to integrate climate change issues and initiatives in the planning process throughout our Ministries, Departments and Agencies,” he explained.

The Minister also pointed to the completion of a Draft National Policy on the development of lands on hillside areas in Jamaica, following community consultations.

Other strategies to be implemented, he pointed out, include the establishment of ‘No Build Zones’ that are prone to disasters; the creation, improvement and expansion of Development Orders, which are prepared under the Town and Country Planning Act.    Amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act to allow for more effective enforcement of planning laws have been implemented as well as a revision of the Agricultural Land Use Policy.

Special features at the symposium were discussion on the Downtown Kingston Redevelopment project; a Hazard Mitigation and Climate Change exposition, and dialogue on local governance and community development.

The symposium was held under the theme:  ‘Climate Change Resilience and Smart Communities’.