JIS News

The National Works Agency (NWA) will be increasing its disaster mitigation activities over the upcoming months.
NWA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ivan Anderson speaking at the weekly JIS Think Tank session at the Agency’s Half Way Tree Road Offices yesterday (Oct.19) said this response was further spurred by the many lessons learnt over the active hurricane season and the heavy rains associated with Hurricane Wilma, which affected the island recently.
As such he said setbacks, which are the stipulations as to the distance from rivers, streams, oceans and gullies that persons are allowed to build, are to be increased by at least 50 metres from the high water mark.
Pointing to the destruction of houses in the Caribbean Terrace area of Kingston due to storm surges during Hurricane Ivan last September, he said recommendations have since been made regarding increased setbacks from rivers, streams and oceans to the minimum 50 metres. Prior to this, the required setback was 100 feet.
The NWA CEO said this would be enforced through the National Environment and Planning Agency’s (NEPA) building requirements and would apply to all new developments.
“We can’t allow persons to live in river courses it is not going to work, it doesn’t matter how well we design the structures, they are not going to survive,” he pointed out.
In terms of halting construction in flood prone areas Mr. Anderson said, “I think we will have to be more vigilant both in terms of planning and in terms of allowing the structures to go up once they start going up. It’s going to cost us much more in the long term if this isn’t done.”
In the meantime he informed that consultants have been invited to survey the strip which leads to the Norman Manley International Airport. The strip was covered with sand and debris from the sea following Hurricane Ivan. The consultants are to devise measures to protect the strip from the Harbour View Roundabout to the Airport. The expected budget for the work to be done on the strip is some $480 million. It is also proposed that a rock revetment structure on the ocean side of the road, be built.
Mr. Anderson said with the loss of the groins/finger piers which assisted with the deposition of sand and protection of the roadway after Hurricane Ivan, the Airport Road is in a vulnerable position.
“If we lose the road in the sense that we have a break in the road then the entire Port Royal is cut off and the entire Norman Manley is shut down for weeks if we lose it,” he pointed out adding that the priority at the moment was on protecting the tom bolo.
The NWA CEO said significant mapping has been done using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) since September to gain an idea of the locations most likely to experience flooding.
Furthermore Mr. Anderson said mapping had also been done of the actual locations of all landslips and breakaways and defining them as either ‘major’ or ‘minor’.
“This will also help us in terms of where we put roads, where we put buildings, where we put developments and we have done that now across the entire country,” he stated.
In the meantime he informed that plans are also afoot to correct the problem that plagued Yallahs Fording. Plans are to construct a 150 metres or 500 foot bridge to span the distance from the fording and the full length of the Yallahs River. Designs for the structure have already been completed.
In the upcoming days the Agency will be working to restore access to all marooned communities.
The NWA head said in the meantime temporary reinstatement would also be carried out for damaged roads, permanent reinstatement as well as localized drainage improvement will be effected once the weather abates.
Mr. Anderson however noted that a comprehensive drainage plan was needed for the entire country.”We have to get a comprehensive drainage plan for the entire country, for many years we have attacked the problem piecemeal and we have to begin to look at it holistically as part of the developments that are taking place as well,” he pointed out.
“Mitigation obviously works. it’s just finding a way to ensure that we do it on an ongoing basis. Finding a way to fund it is part of our challenge,” the NWA CEO said.