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KINGSTON — Managing Director of Smith Warner International Limited, Dr. David Smith, has stressed the importance of countries in the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica, effectively managing and mitigating the impact of coastal-related hazards, in order to conserve resources.

“The Government of Jamaica has to recognise that in order to get to its Vision 2030, one of the things we have to do is to be able to better manage and reduce coastal-related matters, among other things,” he said.

Vision 2030 Jamaica  is the country’s first long-term  national development plan, which aims at enabling  Jamaica to  achieve developed country status  by 2030.  It is  based  on a comprehensive vision:  “Jamaica, the place of choice  to live, work, raise families and do business."

Dr. Smith was speaking at a national stakeholder workshop to present and discuss the findings of the World Bank-funded Coastal Multi-Hazard Mapping and Vulnerability Assessment study, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on June 16.

The Managing Director, whose company carried out the study over a two-year period, pointed out that the results, though significant, would not have the required impact without ‘buy-in’ at the community level.

Funded by a technical assistance grant from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, an agency of the World Bank, the study was undertaken as part of the Government’s efforts to reduce the country’s vulnerability to natural hazards.

The study seeks to help three hazard-prone communities – Manchioneal, in Portland; Morant Bay, St. Thomas; and Portland Cottage, Clarendon – develop and prepare adaptation strategies, and to improve the capacity to manage the impact of severe weather events often associated with long-term cyclical phenomena and/or climate change.

According to Director for the Social Policy, Planning and Research Division of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Claire Bernard, the process also involved the hosting of three community workshops, involving about 150 residents and presentation of copies of the reports and the hazard maps to local libraries and Parish Councils.

“Importantly, planners, developers and residents will have access to the reports and the maps through the websites of all the critical agencies. The intention is that the standards used by the project will be replicated in similar work for other communities,” she said.

Miss Bernard noted that the national stakeholder workshop was part of the knowledge management element of the project, providing an important input for the disaster risk atlas.

“This particular element includes hazard analysis and vulnerability assessment; determining the risk profile; and the development of standardised hazard maps for the three communities,” she informed.

As stated in the final report of the study, a hazard and vulnerability analysis was conducted for the three communities. The hazards examined included: storm surge, river flooding, seismic activity, landslides, and storm winds. The vulnerability analysis examined the impact of those hazards on the housing stock and critical facilities in each of the towns.

According to the report, the analyses have shown that all three communities are susceptible to storm surge, but Portland Cottage is the most vulnerable, since it is subject to the highest storm surge of the three sites and is characterised by low-lying land.

“For the river flooding hazard, Morant Bay is the most susceptible town, as Morant River is capable of flooding its banks in the area south of the Bustamante Bridge. All three towns are susceptible to seismic hazard, whereas all are at relatively low risk of landslide threat. Finally, all sites are susceptible to wind hazard,” the report read.

The report further recommends priorities for action that will potentially benefit the communities, which should include making disaster risk reduction a priority at the parish level.

Hazard and vulnerability maps should be used to guide community participation in risk reduction initiatives and collaboration among the key stakeholders, for example, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Parish Councils, Parish Disaster Committees (PDCs) and other community groups.

It was further suggested that the subject of disaster risk reduction be included in formal, non-formal, and informal education and training activities; an early warning system should be developed for high risk areas in the parishes. Additionally, it was advised that mechanisms for dialogue with partner agencies be established at the community level, as participation is essential for an effective system.

The report recommends that all three communities studied are selected as pilots for establishing a social vulnerability index, based on a broad range of specific vulnerability indicators. The results should then be used to develop appropriate mitigation strategies for other coastal communities.

“The results of these pilots can contribute to the mainstreaming of these strategies across parishes, but also point to an important methodological approach (that is, the use of vulnerability indicators) in building a framework for inter-sectoral mainstreaming,” the report reads.

Smith Warner International, which provides coastal consulting services for the Caribbean, undertook the study in association with Fluid Systems Engineering Ltd; MonaGIS; Peter Jervis and Associates Limited; and Environmental Solutions Limited.

The study was carried out with  technical input from the PIOJ; Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF); ODPEM; Mines and Geology Division; Water Resources Authority (WRA); National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA); Social Development Commission (SDC); Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM);National Land Agency (NLA); and contribution from a number of non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

 

By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter