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JIS News

KINGSTON — Project Manager, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Kirk Frankson, has informed that the agency will be rolling out a pilot phase of the Jamaica Landslide Risk Reduction Project in four at-risk communities across the island.

Speaking at a  JIS ‘Think Tank’ today (September 23), Mr. Frankson noted that the agency has not yet completed the process of identifying the communities, but pointed out that the selection would be based on very specific guidelines.

The Jamaica Landslide Risk Reduction Project is being implemented by the ODPEM under a US$2.37 million grant from the Japanese Social Development Fund, an affiliate of the World Bank.

According to Mr. Frankson, the project, which aims to reduce the risk to natural disasters in vulnerable communities, will be based on the Management of Slope Stability in Communities (MoSSaiC) methodology, developed in the Eastern Caribbean by a team of researchers from the University of Bristol.

Research Associate, University of Bristol and one of the lead developers of the MoSSaiC methodology, Dr. Liz Holcombe, told JIS News that the communities would be selected based on the existence of three main components.

“One such component would involve the existence of the hazard or likelihood of the actual landslide occurring, whether there have been landslides in that community in the past. The second criteria would be exposure, where there are people living in the same area as the hazard, so there would be likely damage to households,” she said.

The third component, Dr. Holcombe noted, would be the level of vulnerability of the communities, which speaks to the degree of damage the households would experience. “We also look at the socio-economic vulnerability, which can be characterised by poverty, where members of the community weren’t able to mitigate the effect of landslides by themselves,” she added. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Frankson informed that the methodology had been implemented with much success in three other Caribbean islands – St. Lucia, Dominica and St. Vincent.

It is hoped that the project will garner similar successes in Jamaica, particularly in the reduction of the cost that is often associated with disaster recovery.

“The first objective is to create a cadre of persons who will become trained and knowledgeable in the MoSSaiC methodology. What we want to do is to create a cadre of trainers where we have government officials and persons in academia who are knowledgeable about management of slope stabilisation practices from a new perspective,” he said.  

Mr. Frankson said a toolkit and short video, as well as brochures and other forms of public awareness tools on MoSSaiC will be developed in an effort to increase awareness and knowledge on the strategy. “The toolkit and video will outline best practice for landslide risk reduction and promote safer slope management in vulnerable communities,” he said.

In the meantime, Lead Researcher, University of Bristol, Professor Malcolm Anderson, advised that an investment in landslide mitigation measures in some of the country’s most vulnerable communities could save the government significant amounts of money on disaster recovery measures.

“The message that we can bring to the Jamaican government, I think, is that it pays for one to actually think of investing in it. It’s like insurance…if we pay a small amount of money now, we’re actually offsetting the risk which is much greater when you look at the effects of social displacement as well as actual costs,” he said.

Empirical data from the World Bank’s Natural Disaster Hotspots Report indicate that Jamaica ranks high among the countries most susceptible to disasters. The study shows that 87.7 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 87.7 per cent of its population are in areas at risk from three or more hazards.

Over the last 20 years, Jamaica’s disasters resulted in cumulative costs of more than US$1 billion. Among the various hazards the country faces, floods and landslides are the most frequently occurring ones, in part due to factors relating to topography, geology and metrological exposure. Slopes can become more susceptible to landslides through human activities, such as earthworks (cuts and fills), road and building construction, and agriculture, all of which affect slope geometry, vegetation cover and surface-water or groundwater regime.

 

By Athaliah Reynolds, JIS Reporter