The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is embarking on a series of workshops in St. Thomas, aimed at developing an effective coastal management action plan for the parish.
The workshops, which got underway on January 19, are being held under ODPEM’s ‘Building Disaster Resilient Communities (BDRC) Project’ and involve collaboration with the St. Thomas Parish Council.
The plan to be developed will specially target the Greater Morant Bay Area, stretching from Lyssons to White Horses, which suffers from frequent coastal sea ravages, wind damage, and storm surges from hurricanes.
Regional Co-ordinator of ODPEM’s Eastern Region, Sophia Mitchell, who spoke to JIS News at a session held today (February 13) in the parish, said that a key objective of the workshops is to develop goals and outcomes for the action plan, and map out and agree on a way forward for completing the planning process.
She said that the drive to develop the action plan came out of the findings of a mapping and coastal vulnerability exercise carried out by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) in 2011.
"We want to complement the work of the PIOJ and to ensure that the Parish Disaster Committee of the St. Thomas Parish Council will now be able to chart the course in developing a strategic framework in terms of what needs to be done within the next five years,” she informed.
Coming out of the PIOJ study titled: ‘Coastal Multi-hazard mapping and Vulnerability Assessment for Portland Cottage, Morant Bay and Manchoniel’, several storm surge maps have been developed, which will be used in the planning process.
Chairman of the St. Thomas Parish Council, Mayor Haniff Brown, who was at today’s workshop, told JIS News that he was heartened by the initiative being undertaken.
He said the development of a coastal management plan for the parish is critical and will assist the economic and social development strategies to be implemented, and will enable the St. Thomas Parish Disaster Committee to attract funding to carry out mitigation work.
“We recognize that there is now a need to strengthen the sea defence mechanism in place at Roselle and that will require funding. Also, some mitigation work will be required for the drainage network for the greater Morant bay Area,” Mr. Brown said.
Another meeting in the series is planned for Monday, February 20 at the offices of the Parish Council.
By O. Rodger Hutchinson, JIS PRO