JIS News

As the world witnesses the earthquake horror in Haiti, the problem of informal settlements in Jamaica, has again come to the fore.
Addressing a JIS Think Tank this morning (January 20), Executive Director of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, pointed to the similarities between Jamaica and Haiti where informal settlements are concerned, and how they factored into the impact of the disaster.
“When I visited Haiti after the quake what was particularly interesting were some similarities in terms of the settlement pattern in a number of areas that were impacted.the settlement patterns are akin to a number of areas in Jamaica in terms of the informal nature, (there was) some amount of density, (and) access issues…a number of developments along gully banks just as we have them here in Jamaica. These are all references we can draw on in Jamaica,” he explained.
Mr. Jackson noted also that a number of areas where people chose to build may be along fault lines. This is a crack or separation in the earth’s crust where two or more tectonic plates push against each other. An earthquake occurs when these plates move against each other.
“So one of the things we have to first accept is that when people submit development applications for approval and the authorities may ask people to hold and make the necessary adjustments based on the hazard, a lot of persons become disgruntled and find other means – including circumventing the legal process – and informally setting up the structures,” he said.
The ODPEM head said this practice must stop, and that individuals must get the facts before building. “Its not a case that we are saying you can’t build.the information is there, so you need to seek it out and integrate it into the process,” he noted.
Mr. Jackson said that while Jamaica’s buildings might be much better prepared for an earthquake, due to standards and strength of material used, building along a fault-line, even if it’s a strong structure, may make the difference between survival and disaster.
“So that is information you need to have. Depending on the nature of the soil, if liquefaction occurs, that may determine whether or not you build with heavy concrete or timber frame structures – because there were timber-frame informal settlements that stood up in Haiti. So the fact of the matter is the type of construction, and the standards that you apply will be defined by the science that is available now in Jamaica,” the Executive Director advised.

Skip to content